Thus far in the Lord’s Prayer we have been praying for what God wants: His name hallowed, His kingdom growing and advancing, His will being accomplished. Once we have prayed for all these things, Jesus leads us in a slightly different direction. He teaches us to pray: “give us this day our daily bread.”
Daily bread? Really? Jesus wants us to pray for food and stuff? We just got done asking for God to rule and transform the world. Now we ask for bread? Does God, who has the eternal salvation of the universe on His shoulders, really have time to care and see to our daily physical needs?
Yes. Yes He does. Your physical needs are important to God because He created them and redeemed them, and He Himself will eternally fulfill them.
Who created your physical body with all of its needs? God did. He made your body to need food, rest, and shelter. Certainly these needs were much more easily met before the fall into sin, but they were still there.
And even more firmly establishing the point, Jesus redeemed your body with His resurrection. Jesus did not rise as a pure spirit, as a body-less phantom. He rose with feet, with hands, with scars, with a mouth and stomach that consumed a broiled fish.
And this is a sure sign that in the resurrection God will continue to fulfill our physical needs. We do not get resurrected from the dead to ignore our bodies, but to enjoy them as they were first created and intended to be.
We can fall into false belief on both sides of this doctrine. From the first century through today a constant battle has been waged by the Church against two great philosophical foes: Gnosticism and Materialism.
Gnosticism, generally speaking, is the teaching that the physical world is of no consequence. All that matters is the spiritual realm. So church and prayer, forgiveness and preaching, those things matter. But food, shelter, and clothing don’t matter at all.
Materialism is the other extreme. There is no spiritual world, or at least it has no significance, so just worry about your physical needs, and forget the spiritual. This is not just the person who cares only for wealth and the accumulation of stuff, but simply the person who gives little or no thought to spiritual matters.
I think we can see these two false ideas in our prayers. What we believe is reflected in what we pray. So when you pray, do you pray as Jesus taught, with God’s name, kingdom, and will up front? Or do you pray first and foremost for what you want, what you think you need?
I can testify that I have certainly been guilty of praying for the health and safety of my own family. I am very fervent in praying for the health and safety of this congregation. Those ideas and thoughts come very easy to me. It takes much more practice to pray for spiritual things, especially for those things that Jesus first teaches.
I am willing to bet that this is true for you too. You are more likely to pray for your own physical needs, or the physical needs of your friends and family, than you are to pray for God’s name to be hallowed, for His will to be done.
So repent. It is sinful for us to prioritize our prayers in a different way than Jesus teaches us. Repent of this. And be forgiven. The grace of God in Christ removes our sin, the sin of praying wrongly, or praying selfishly. He covers that with the holy blood of Jesus.
The death and resurrection of Jesus atones for our sins of prayer, whether they are Gnostic or Materialistic. And His resurrection sets us to thinking aright about how to pray. Our physical needs are not inconsequential, nor are they primary.
Trusting in Jesus we can pray for what we need of body and soul, but remember that not all will be fulfilled in this life. Our physical needs are very pressing and important, yet we know that if they are not met here in time, they will be met in eternity. This is not the only physical life you have to live. A far better, far richer one is coming.
By faith we see God at work, providing our daily bread, through various vocations.
Through family God moves parents to provide for their children. Then, as both age and grow, the rolls often reverse. Children care for their parents.
Through work God provides income for us to buy what we need for our families, but He also uses those vocations to provide for those in our communities. The baker does not only make bread for his family, but for all those in town. The cobbler makes shoes for hundreds of people, not only those of his household.
Through government God establishes peace where people can live and work without fear. It is much easier to work when you are not being vandalized on the way. We can raise families when we are not afraid of being bombed or invaded.
Luther, in the Large Catechism, ends his comments on this petition with a warning to those who would stand against Christians, that this petition could turn against them. Unjust employers and unjust governments beware. God will provide for His people. If you find yourself standing in the way of His provision or harming His people, He will crush you for their sake.
God blesses employers and governments in order to provide daily bread for His people. If they are not going to be doing that, then He will replace them with someone who will.
By God’s grace our misplaced prayer priorities are forgiven. Our lives are redeemed, body and soul. And God promises to provide all that we need to support this body and life. So we pray boldly as sons, “Give us this day our daily bread.”