“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”
By Joyce D. Sohl
In the midst of the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples and that he teaches us, is the petition “give us this day our daily bread.” It is almost a command – “give us” – no please is included. It acknowledges that God is the source of all – that we are dependent upon God for all of our daily needs – food, shelter, health, clothing, etc.
We often forget that God is the source of all and think and act as if we are independent of God and each other. The sin of self-sufficiency is evident a great deal in our world and here in the United States it is often touted as the independent or pioneer spirit in opposition to caring for/about others. Acknowledging that God is the source of everything including life itself is a part of the Lord’s Prayer. Whatever we want to include in this simple petition, and it may vary from day to day, Jesus is telling us that it is alright to pray about our daily needs and to do so with a sense of gratitude.
But “give us this day our daily bread” is not just about my individual needs. Note that singular words are not used – it is “give us” and “our daily bread.” When we pray this prayer we are asking God to grant the basic needs to all God’s children. We are acknowledging that every person has a right to and deserves to have their daily needs met. No one person or group should have their needs met, while others go hungry or are homeless or don’t have access to health care. This is real sticky for us who live in an affluent society – it requires that we pray for those who are without whether they live next door or in another country.
The word “daily” calls to mind the story during the exodus when the Hebrews attempted to hoard the daily manna provided by God. They soon learned that to collect more than was needed for the day was not wise – for the surplus spoiled. They finally accepted the fact that God was in charge of their future and God would provide for their needs each morning. This petition calls into question our consumer society – our greed, the uneven distribution of wealth and our emphasis on more instead of being satisfied with having our needs meet.
To pray “Give us this day our daily bread” is to intercede for God’s children. This prayer visualizes a world where all basic needs are met. It is a vision of God’s alternative to hunger and poverty. It is about justice. When we pray we are as Walter Wink says “hammering away at God until something happens” or “focusing for action/co-action with God” to bring justice to this world.
There is a prayer out of Latin America that says: “O God, to those who have hunger, give bread and to those who have bread, give the hunger for justice.” When we pray, we should not only center on those who hunger and are oppressed, but we must open our eyes to our responsibility in changing the social order that brings about injustice. This prayer is about changing the way things are in the world – these are revolutionary words. And when we pray we are committing ourselves to work with God to assist in “making all things new.” So be it!
Joyce D. Sohl
Joyce D. Sohl has been Laywoman-in-Residence since 2009 as a full-time volunteer. She retired as CEO of United Methodist Women in 2004. She is the author of 4 books, a teacher, retreat leader, writer and non-professional musician. Here at the Center her work is in the area of Spirituality & the Arts with such programs as Tuesdays in the Chapel, Vespers & All That Jazz, Poet’s Corner, and quarterly retreats and art exhibits.