Today we continue our devotional study of Luke’s version of “The Lord’s Prayer.” So far we have reflected upon: “Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon.” Today, we move on to the next request of Jesus’ model prayer: “Give us each day the food we need” (11:3).
At first glance, this appears to be a simple request for physical nourishment. Where our translation reads “food,” the original Greek uses the word for bread (artos). The phrase “each day” combined with a present imperative in Greek (didou) underscores the fact that we need God to provide bread, not just once, but on a regular basis. Though we might purchase our food or grow it, ultimately, God is the one who provides. We depend on him for all of our needs. Thus, when we pray, “Give us each day the food we need,” we are reminded of our need, not just for bread, but also for God.
The original text of Luke 11:3 (and Matthew 6:11) employs a very unusual adjective. Our translation renders it with the phrase “the food we need.” Other versions speak of “daily” bread. The Greek adjective epiousios is not known to have been used in all of Greek writing before this usage in the Gospels. Scholars debate the precise meaning of the word. It appears to mean something like “for tomorrow” or “for the next day.” Yet, this seems like an odd request to make of God: “Give us each day the bread of tomorrow.” Does this translation make any sense at all?
Yes, in fact it does. Remember that the basic message of Jesus had to do with the kingdom of God. He announced that the kingdom was coming in the future, yet was also at hand in the present. Thus, it would be consistent for Jesus to teach us to pray on a daily basis for “tomorrow’s bread,” that is, for the sustenance of the age to come. “Bread,” in this sense would not be literal food, but would be that which feeds our souls, enabling us to live faithfully in today’s world. “Tomorrow’s bread” would be similar to hope, the confident vision of the future that keeps us going in the present. Thus, when we pray “Give us each day the food [of tomorrow],” we are continuing the thought of the previous request: “May your Kingdom come soon.” We are asking God to allow us to enjoy today an appetizer of the messianic banquet that is to come.
When we ask God for bread, whether it’s the food we need today or a taste of the kingdom that is to come, we are confessing our need for God and our dependence upon his goodness. We ask, knowing that God will provide all we need.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: When you ask God for “daily bread,” how do you understand this request? If you can provide food for yourself by purchasing it or buying it, what sense does it make to ask God for food? In what ways would you like to experience today the “bread of tomorrow”?
PRAYER: Give us each day the food we need!
Lord, I’m reminded today to pray for that which I usually take for granted. Yes, please give me the food I need to sustain life. Thank you for the food that is so readily available to me. Thank you for those who grow it, produce it, transport it, prepare it, and sell it. Bless them in their work, which makes my life so much easier and delightful.
As I pray for my own food today, I’m also reminded of the fact millions of people throughout the world do not have the food they need. I ask you, Lord, to provide what they need. Thank you for organizations like World Vision and Bread for the World that are working to see that all people are fed. Thank you for researchers who are developing better ways to grow and produce food. Thank you for business development in places of poverty, which enables people to buy the food they need. Thank you for leaders in business, government, and the media who are using their influence to fight global hunger. Bless the efforts of all of these, so that all people in our world might have the food they need.
As I think of the brokenness of our world, I pray for tomorrow’s bread. O Lord, may your kingdom come. May you turn implements of war into tools for farming. May you turn our mourning into dancing.
All praise be to you, O God, for your grace and provision. Amen.
P.S. from Mark: Easter Isn’t Over!
Yesterday was Easter Sunday. For many of us, Easter is now over. But, for millions of Christians throughout the world, Easter continues. We are now in the Christian season of Easter, sometimes called Eastertide. This season continues for fifty days, as we continue to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. If you’re interested in this notion of Eastertide, if you’re wondering how it might make a difference in your life, check out my blog today.