Just Enough for Just Today
And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. ~Philippians 4:19
This week, in our series looking deeper into The Lord’s Prayer, we come to the phrase “Give us this day our daily bread.” It is a phrase which would have meant much to its original Jewish and first century Christian recipients as it calls to mind the powerful story of God providing manna from heaven during the 40 years the Jewish people wandering the Middle Eastern desert. Just to help our modern ears better appreciate this phrase, let’s take a quick look back at the circumstances surrounding that ongoing, forty year long, miracle.
The Jewish people have just been freed from generations of slavery in Egypt. God had sent their deliverer, a man named Moses, to lead them out of Egypt and back into the land which had been promised long ago to their ancestors. They had seen the plagues devastate Egypt and walked across the Red Sea on dry land. They watched Pharaoh’s army be swallowed up by those same waters and drowned when it attempted to follow the Jews to bring them back to Egypt. The Jewish people had seen God work in some pretty powerful ways.
The Jewish people were all set to journey towards the Promised Land. However, they didn’t have cars, trucks, or planes to help them along their journey. They had to walk. And in their haste to leave Egypt when Pharaoh told them to leave, there wasn’t time to prepare adequate provisions to keep all the people and the livestock hydrated and fed as they walked the many miles across the desert. It wasn’t long before those provisions ran out and people started getting hungry.
In response to their grumbling, each morning God would provide manna for them to eat. We don’t know exactly what it was but it is believed to be a bread like substance and scripture tells us it tasted of honey. They were commanded to only gather what they would eat that day and if they gathered more, they would wake up the find the extra spoiled, rotten, and full of maggots. The only exception was, on the 6th day of each week, they were to gather enough for 2 days so they could rest from any labor on the Sabbath the next day.
I, as I’m guessing most of you, have been blessed to never worry too much about having enough food to eat. I might not have always WANTED to eat the food I had available to me, but I was never forced to go hungry because of lack of food. I often forget how lucky I am just to have always had something to eat.
Imagine, if you will, you were going to bed tonight with nothing in the fridge, nothing in the freezer, nothing in the pantry. Imagine having to trust that, somehow, food would appear for you to eat the next day because you don’t have money to buy food or a store selling food you can get to. Imagine how much more you would have to trust God to provide for your every need if you found yourself in that situation.
Especially for those of us in the United States, very few of us go to bed with empty stomachs and homes devoid of food. And if we are struggling to feed ourselves, or our families, there is help available in the form of food shelves, soup kitchens, WIC, food stamps, and more. Thus, today we are unlikely praying literally for bread to eat to keep us nourished and alive. But we are praying for those things which we need on a daily basis.
We are praying for our safety. We are praying for our health. We are praying for those million and one specific, little things which need to happen in a single day to bring us to tomorrow. We are asking God to provide for each step along the path of each day, recognizing that, ultimately, each step is given us by God.
One other thing to note when praying this line of The Lord’s Prayer, it says “Give US OUR daily bread.” You aren’t just praying for your daily needs, but for the needs of everyone to be met this day. Author Daniel Darling asks, “Can we pray this with integrity if we do nothing to help the poor? Do we care when others have nothing to eat? We should.”
If you haven’t spent significant time in and/or studying other cultures, its likely you haven’t come face to face with how individualistic American culture truly is. One only has to listen to a single political debate to hear it loud and clear: What about MY rights?! So this challenge to care about the daily needs of others just as much as we care about our own is often a struggle. The next time you find yourself praying this prayer with a group of people, take a peak around the room. Ask yourself how you can be part of meeting their daily needs.
It likely isn’t for bread to eat, but have you asked that family you know is struggling if you can drop off a meal just in case they are having trouble providing food each day? It likely isn’t providing a job for an out of work parent but have you offered to get them a haircut so they look great for that interview you know they have in the next couple of days? Or perhaps take a moment away from social media see what jobs your connections might have you could recommend them for? It likely isn’t finding the cure for a certain cancer or other terminal illness, but have you offered to watch the kids or pick them up after school so a husband can sit with his wife or vice versa?
There are so many daily needs we all have. And, in reality, we often go back and forth between seasons of being able to help and seasons of needing some extra help. God will provide for everyone’s daily needs, but He often wants us to be part of providing for our friends and family.
Take a moment and read the story below to help better understand how much not having a basic need met can impact even the youngest among us…and how a simple act of understanding and compassion can help.
After the Korean War ended, South Korea was left with a large number of children who had been orphaned by the war. Relief agencies came in to deal with all the problems which arose in connection with having so many orphan children. One of the people involved in this relief effort told a story of a problem they encountered with the children who were in the orphanages. Even though the children had three meals a day provided for them, they were restless and anxious at night and had difficulty sleeping. As they talked to the children, they soon discovered the children had great anxiety about whether they would have food the next day. To help resolve this problem, the relief workers in one particular orphanage decided that, each night when the children were put to bed, the nurses would place a single piece of bread in each child’s hand. The bread wasn’t intended to be eaten; it was simply intended to be held by the children as they went to sleep. It was a “security blanket” for them, reminding them that there would be provision for their daily needs. Sure enough, the bread calmed the children’s anxieties and helped them sleep.
It’s easy to view our wants as needs. After all, that is the #1 task of advertising campaigns: to convince you that you need their product. Not just want it, but need it. Think about what you have praying for/wishing for in recent months. Wants or needs?
Get involved to make sure someone else has food when they go to bed tonight. Donate to a food shelf. Volunteer to be sure they can be open to distribute the food. Don’t wait to be asked if you can bless a family you know is struggling in some way, offer to provide them with a meal.