Tomorrow’s Bread, Today

The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father which art in heaven,
(1.1) Hallowed be thy name.
(1.2) Thy kingdom come.
(1.3) Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
⭐ Give us this day our daily bread. ⭐
(3.3) And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
(3.2) And lead us not into temptation,
(3.1) but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, for ever.

The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6 is a prayer many people know. But in many ways it isn’t so known after all. Just like most parts of the Bible, The Lord’s Prayer offers multiple layers of meaning and complexities that come alive the more you scan the landscape.

In The Lord’s Prayer, Jesus gives us a prayer of seven petitions (perfection) in three parts (completion).
The first part asks for the Father’s glory (1.1, 3.1).
The second asks the Father to meet our needs (1.2, 3.2).
And the third asks for peace with God and others and deliverance from evil (1.3, 3.3).

The Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic
Dayroyo Boulus

There is so much to say about the relationship between the different parts of the prayer. For now, I want to go straight to the heart of the prayer.
I want to talk about bread.

For a book I am writing on religious language, I looked at contemporary uses of the phrase ‘daily bread.’ What I found is that often, like we do with other texts in the Bible, we stick with the plain meaning. Bread is … bread. So, following The Lord’s Prayer and our trusty A.C.T.S. model, often when we pray we rightly ask our Father to meet our physical needs.

Okay. Yes. But Jesus’s reference to ‘daily bread’ is so much more than just a request for food, water, shelter, warmth. What Jesus offers here is bread that is not just literal but also metaphorical. And in order to understand that fully, we need to zoom out. Way out. Out to the life of Jesus. Out to the story of God’s people. Out to our old master, the Law.

In fact, Jesus has patterned His model prayer after The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20, which begins with recognition of who God is (first four commandments) and ends with how we can honour God through human relationships (final six).

But Jesus offers us more than the letter of the Law in His prayer. His prayer invites us to re-encounter The Ten Commandments through the eyes of our salvation. Through Jesus, the Law takes on new meaning and relevance.

We find the substance of this re-encounter in the center, the heart of The Lord’s Prayer, the request for daily bread. We’ve already traced the prayer’s structure to the Ten Commandments. Now Jesus calls our minds to something beyond the Law, to the meaningfulness that God places on bread in the Bible, beginning with Israel’s freedom from Egyptian slavery.

The Israelites in the Wilderness
JACOPO DA PONTE, 1510 – 1592

Exodus 16.4-5 lays the foundation for what Jesus means, when the Israelites were given enough bread on the 6th day of the week, both for that day and the next.

On the sixth day they are to prepare what they bring in, and that is to be twice as much as they gather on the other days.

In other words, in the wilderness, God gave His people their bread for Sabbath rest a day early. And by surpassing their earthly need that day, by calling their minds to the day of rest that was coming, God was teaching His people of a need and a rest far greater. This is why when Jesus came, He said,

“I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Through the eyes of our salvation, we understand that the sustenance we require is not merely physical but spiritual. Not merely daily but eternal. And in this worldly wilderness, God gives us a taste of the rest and the land He has promised us by giving us Jesus today, the Bread of Life that we will one day taste in all its fullness.

This is what Jesus tell us to ask from God. And more than ask. Claim! Take possession of what is already ours. In fact, a truer translation of Jesus’s words is this: “Give us tomorrow’s bread, today.”

The Gathering of the Manna, c. 1460-1470.


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