How to Pray for Our Daily Bread
By Drs. John M. Frame and Steven L. Childers
In this lesson, we learn that in any and every circumstance, when facing plenty or hunger, Jesus instructs us to keep asking our heavenly Father to give us each day exactly what we need to honor his name and carry out his will–and then trust in him and his promise to give us exactly what we need.
In this Applied Theology series of courses and books, you’ll learn a Trinitarian theology of faith, hope, and love by understanding and applying to your life what the Bible teaches about: 1) Faith found in the Apostles’ Creed, 2) Hope found in the Lord’s Prayer, and 3) Love found in the Ten Commandments. You’ll learn from God’s Word that:
A mind that is renewed by faith and a heart that is aflame with hope results in a life that honors God by loving him and others deeply and well.
In Theology of Hope Course Lesson 4, you’ll learn how, why, and what it means to pray for our daily bread.
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Read Chapter 4 of the Theology of Hope: A Biblical Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer below.
Learning Tip: Don’t miss reading the “going deeper” footnotes!
Chapter 4: Praying for Our Daily Bread
A Biblical Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer
Drs. John M. Frame and Steven L. Childers
There are two sets of petitions in the Lord’s Prayer. The first set is vertical, focusing on God, where we ask for our Father’s name to be hallowed, for his kingdom to come, and for his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. The second set includes horizontal requests where we ask our Father for our daily bread, for our forgiveness, and for our deliverance.
It’s important to understand how these two sets of petitions are interconnected. The reason we pray for our daily bread, forgiveness, and deliverance is so that we can honor our Father’s name by advancing his kingdom and carrying out his will on earth as it is in heaven.
Jesus knew that our anxiety about not having what we think we need in life could easily divert us from our mission of honoring the Father’s name by advancing his kingdom and will on earth. To help us overcome this temptation and flourish in our mission, Jesus instructs us to pray to our heavenly Father, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Praying For Our Needs
The New Testament Greek word translated “bread” (ἄρτον) in verse 11 can refer to both the physical bread we eat and to all the basic provisions of life we need. The Greek adjective (ἐπιούσιον) used to describe the bread is difficult to translate and is not used any other place in the New Testament except in Luke’s record of the Lord’s Prayer in Luke 11:2-4. It can be translated “daily,” but its fuller meaning is most likely conveyed by the word “necessary.”
Jesus is not just teaching us to ask our heavenly Father to give us all the provisions that are necessary to sustain our physical lives each day. His broader purpose is to teach us how to trust in our heavenly Father to give us what is necessary each day to carry out his mission – with or without our daily provisions we may think are necessary.
Luke’s account of Jesus’ teaching the Lord’s Prayer is immediately followed by Jesus teaching that we should be persistent in our prayers, always bringing our needs to God as our heavenly Father with the persistent confidence of his beloved children that he will always hear and answer our prayers. Jesus says,
“I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?” (Luke 11:9-12)
Then Jesus teaches that our heavenly Father’s greatest answer to our prayers is not necessarily receiving what we ask him to give us, but the far superior gift of himself in the Holy Spirit. “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13).
Our continual need for physical nourishment should remind us of our continual need for our Father’s provision of not just our food, but also all things we need for life. We should always be asking our heavenly Father to give us good gifts, such as food, but all the while knowing that the ultimate gift our Father promises us, that meets our greatest need, is himself by his Holy Spirit.
Praying For Our Protection
Similar to the way the prayer’s vertical petitions for the Father’s name, kingdom, and will are found in the Old Testament, we also find the horizontal petitions in the Old Testament.
For example, in Jesus’ instruction for us to pray for “our daily bread” he is echoing an ancient Jewish prayer: “Feed me with the food that is needful for me” (Prov. 30:8). This ancient “wisdom prayer” was probably one of the first century Jewish synagogue prayers used in corporate worship.
The book of Proverbs teaches that true wisdom is achieved by honoring God and submitting to his will in all of life’s circumstances. (Prov. 1:7) And the truly wise person knows how to honor God and obey his will when facing the unique temptations that come from poverty and riches. To help us be wise when asking God to provide us with what is truly necessary in this life, he instructs us, in Proverbs 30:9, to ask him for protection from both kinds of temptations.
“Give me neither poverty nor riches;
feed me with the food that is needful for me.
lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.”
There is a strong echo from the Proverbs 30 petition, “feed me with the food that is needful for me.” in the Lord’s Prayer petition “give us this day our daily (needful) bread.” There’s also a shared ultimate prayer for honoring God’s name found in both prayers. In Proverbs 30:9 the request for needful food is made so that the person praying does not “profane the name of my God.” And in the Lord’s Prayer, the request for daily bread is the first of several petitions offered so that the Father’s name will be hallowed (not profaned).
For Jesus’ followers to honor the Father’s name and fulfill his kingdom mission, they must overcome these dangerous temptations of poverty and riches by learning how to trust in their heavenly Father to give them everything that is necessary each day to carry out his mission.
Jesus’ primary purpose in giving us this petition is to increase our daily dependence on our heavenly Father – especially when we’re facing the kinds of temptations brought about by either poverty or riches – temptations that can easily divert us from carrying out the Father’s will.
Jesus knew firsthand the power of these temptations. Before he was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, he ate nothing for forty days. Matthew says, “After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry” (Matt. 4:1).
We can be confident that, during his time in the wilderness, Jesus was asking his Father to give him what he needed each day to carry out his will. And after forty days without food, Jesus was approaching the limits of having what is necessary to stay alive physically.
Satan seized this vulnerable moment to tempt Jesus to stop trusting in his Father to provide what he needed and start trusting in his own ability by turning stones into bread. Satan said, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread” (Matt. 4:3).
Jesus resists this temptation and quotes a passage from Deuteronomy 8, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matt. 4:4). He tells Satan that what ultimately sustains his life is not physical bread but his Father’s will. So Jesus continues trusting in his Father’s word to provide him with everything he needs to do his will.
Praying For Our Obedience
When his disciples became concerned that Jesus had not eaten in a while, they urged him to eat. Jesus responded by saying, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus then said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:31-34).
Jesus is teaching that our lives are not ultimately sustained or lost by things like physical food, but by our Father’s will. So the time we’re alive on earth is not ultimately determined by the amount of physical provisions we have but by how long it takes us to accomplish our Father’s will for our lives.
Trusting in his heavenly Father to provide for all his daily needs was a hallmark of Jesus’ brief life and ministry. When a religious leader showed an interest in following Jesus, he told the leader, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Matt. 8:20). Following Jesus requires following his example of trusting in our heavenly Father to give us everything we need each day to carry out his mission.
Our Father did not always give Jesus the daily physical care and comfort he longed for and asked for. This does not mean that his Father stopped loving him – although it sometimes felt like it. Instead, Jesus learned that if the Father withheld what he thought he needed, it was because he did not need it to carry out his Father’s will. So it was sometimes actually better for Jesus not to have his physical needs met.
Through his suffering, the one who said, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34), received the higher blessing of learning greater levels of obedience to his Father’s will. “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9).
Therefore, Jesus’ purpose in instructing us to ask our Father for our necessary daily provisions in life is not to teach us that we will always receive what we think is necessary, but to teach us that what we receive from our heavenly Father is truly best and necessary for us to do his will.
The same Jesus who teaches his followers not to be anxious about having the necessities of life saying, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matt. 6:33), also says, “You will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and some of you they will put to death” (Luke 21:16-17). Jesus doesn’t tell us how they will be put to death, but we know that many of his followers have been tortured and died of hunger.
Immediately after Jesus describes the horrific suffering his followers might experience, he makes this promise to them, “But not a hair of your head will perish” (Luke 21:18), showing that this promise, like his many others, does not include a promise of no physical harm.
The Apostle Paul gives us a long list of horrible physical circumstances he faced in his life and ministry, including “imprisonments”, “countless beatings” from which he almost died, and a host of other dangerous situations in which he experienced “many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure” (2 Cor. 11:23-27).
The same Paul who believed Jesus’ promise that when he suffered “not even a hair from his head will perish,” was most likely beheaded in prison for his faith. In all these difficult circumstances, when God did not give Paul the daily provisions and comfort he longed for and asked for, Paul learned that God did not abandon him, but gave him something far better that he needed much more – the soul-nourishing bread of life in Jesus Christ. As a result, Paul writes:
“I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil. 4:12-13)
Sometimes our heavenly Father answers our prayer for our necessary provisions in life by giving us abundance. Other times he answers our prayer by giving us a lack of physical provisions and a painful experience of suffering that increases our trust in him and our obedience to his will.
The Apostle Peter teaches that we’re all called to follow Jesus in his suffering. “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21). Paul wrote, “For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake” (Phil. 1:29).
Not having the things we think we need in life can sometimes be a good thing. Our physical suffering and hunger heightens our sense of need and drives us to our heavenly Father to find in him a strength beyond ourselves. Suffering is not something that followers of Jesus should be avoiding at all costs. If Jesus learned obedience to the Father’s will through the things he suffered, are his followers above their Master?
Therefore, in any and every circumstance, when facing plenty or hunger, Jesus instructs us to keep asking our heavenly Father to give us each day exactly what we need to honor his name and carry out his will–and then trust in him and his promise to give us exactly what we need.
 The first petitions repeat the pronoun “your” three times: 1) “hallowed be your name”, 2) “your kingdom come”, and 3) “your will be done.” The second petitions include eight personal pronouns: 1) Give us this day our daily bread, 2) forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors, and 3) lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
 Jesus taught that one of the most dangerous temptations his followers face is having an inordinate focus on “treasures on earth” and “money” instead of “treasures in heaven” and “God.” (Matt. 5:19-24) He refers to these temptations as the “cares (anxieties) of this world” and the “deceitfulness of riches” that result in people “falling away” and becoming “unfruitful.” (Matt. 13:18-22)
 It can be helpful to see how this first petition for “our daily bread” relates to the other petitions and Jesus’ broader message in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus gives us the Lord’s pattern prayer (Matt. 6:9-13) in the middle of his warning against the dangers of practicing religious righteousness (giving, praying, and fasting) to be approved by people. (Matt. 6:1-18) He is drawing a stark contrast between how religious hypocrites practice righteousness and how his followers should practice righteousness. Jesus’ focus is on the underlying temptations and heart issues his followers face when they’re practicing the spiritual disciplines of giving, praying, and fasting.
 Martin Luther writes, “Question: What is meant by ‘daily bread’? Answer: All that belongs to the wants and support of the body, such as meat, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, cattle, money, goods, a pious spouse, pious children, pious servants, pious and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, order, honor, good friends, trusty neighbors and the like.” Then he comments, “If you speak of, and pray for, daily bread, you pray for everything that is necessary in order to have and enjoy the same, and also against everything which interferes with it. Therefore you must enlarge your thoughts and extend them afar, not only to the oven or the flour-barrel, but to the distant field and the entire land, which bears and brings to us daily bread and every sort of sustenance. For if God did not cause it to grow, and bless and preserve it in the field, we could never take bread from the oven or have any to set upon the table.” The Book of Concord, The Fourth Petition, p. 402-403, 501.
 ἐπιούσιον may be the best equivalent Greek word for the unknown Aramaic word that Jesus actually used.
 In Matthew’s account, Jesus includes the son’s request for bread and the Father’s promise to “give good things.” “Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” (Matt. 7:9-11)
 Old Testament scholar Rick Byargeon shows the striking similarity between the Jewish synagogue prayer Qaddish and the Lord’s Prayer. “The Qaddish begins with the phrase “Exalted and hallowed be his great name,” which parallels “hallowed be your name” in Matt 6:9. The second expression shared between the two prayers is related to the coming kingdom. The Qaddish states: “May he establish his kingdom in your lifetime.” This parallels the expression “your kingdom come” in Matt 6:10.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, 41/3 (September 1998), p. 354
 One of the most prominent prayers of Judaism, called “The Prayer” (hattepilla), was compiled and standardized by Gamaliel as Eighteen Benedictions at Jamnia after the destruction of the temple near the end of the first century. Benediction 9 seems to have similar content to “Give us this day our daily bread.” “Bless, O Lord our God, this year for us, and let it be good in all the varieties of its produce. Hasten the year of our redemptive End. Grant dew and rain upon the face of the earth, and satiate the world out of the treasuries of Your goodness; and grant a blessing to the work of our hands.”
 The prayers in Proverbs 30 address the dangers of pride and arrogance and include examples of when “a slave becomes a king” and when “a fool is filled with food.” (Prov. 30:22) One of the strongest parallels between Proverbs 30 and the Lord’s Prayer is found in Proverbs 30:8 in which the Hebrew text הַטְרִיפֵ֗נִי לֶ֣חֶם חֻקִּֽי)) conveys the meaning “Let me eat my appointed/apportioned bread.” The Hebrew word (חֻקִּֽי) used to describe the bread reflects the idea of a specific allotment of bread that is appointed and sufficient for a prescribed amount of time – reflected in the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
 Martin Luther writes, “But this petition [for daily bread] is especially directed against our chief enemy, the devil. For all his thought and desire is occupied with depriving us of all that we have from God and hindering us in its enjoyment … he is sorry that any one has a morsel of bread from God and eats the same in peace.” The Book of Concord, The Fourth Petition, p. 502
 The passage Jesus quotes in Deuteronomy 8 is from Moses’ message to the people of Israel whom God taught this same lesson about trusting him for their daily needs during their forty years in the wilderness. To help Israel learn how to trust in him to care for them as they carried out his will, God provided for them daily only enough bread (manna) to sustain them for that one day. This bread could not be stockpiled to provide for their needs in the future. God did not do this to punish Israel, but as a form of loving discipline, so they would learn how to trust in him to always provide for their needs as they kept their primary focus on him and on carrying out his will on earth. Moses exhorts them to remember this valuable lesson. He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna … that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you and your foot did not swell these forty years. Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you” (Deut. 8:4-5). Sadly, the people of Israel failed this test during their forty years in the wilderness, but Jesus, the True Israel, passed this test, not only in his forty days of temptation in the wilderness, but also when he faced the same daily temptations throughout his life.
 In his last letter before his death, Paul writes, “For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing” (2 Tim. 4:6-8).
 J. I. Packer writes, “Now comes the real test of faith. You, the Christian, have (I assume) prayed for today’s bread. Will you now believe that what comes to you, much or little, is God’s answer, according to the promise of Matthew 6:33? And will you on that basis be content with it, and grateful for it? Over to you.” Packer, J. I.. Growing in Christ (p. 190). Crossway.
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