Series Title: "Pray Then, Like This ..."
As an observant Jewish man living in Israel in the 1st century, Jesus prayed daily—both disciplined and extemporaneous, spontaneous prayers. The prayer Jesus gave his disciples, and through them to us, embodies quintessentially all the major themes of Jewish prayer that were familiar to him in his world.
We are looking at this prayer in-depth to prepare our hearts to pray more earnestly, fervently, and frequently.
I have translated and laid out the prayer thus far as follows:
Our Father in heaven, - Identity
may your name be sanctified. - Responsibility
May your kingship be established, - Destiny
may your will be done in heaven and earth. - Priority
Today we are looking at an intriguing phrase memorably rendered in the King James version as give us this day our daily bread. Based on a Hebraic foundation, my free translation is Grant us our sustaining needs this day. It speaks of dependency.
If you truly want God’s will to be done in your life, you must trust that he is a Father eager to give you good gifts. He is a Father who will protect you, who at every turn will guide your steps and lead you into ways of righteousness so that his name may indeed be sanctified.
It is a petition for the bread that is needed—today. Bread is lechem in Hebrew. Beth-lechem means the house of bread. Jesus came to Bethlehem as the bread of life. The word is rich in connotations and implications. Obviously, it is more than just literal bread. It is a metaphor for that which sustains you, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually. Whatever you need, God is sufficient to provide that need on a daily basis.
In some respects he wants us focused on the daily rather than the long term. He wants to teach us the lessons of dependency and trust in him rather than the constant temptations to depend on and rely upon our own cleverness, wisdom, or strength.
Jesus was constantly referring to scriptures from his Bible. If not quoting directly, he would hint and allude to them. Here he is referring to and paraphrasing Proverbs 30:7-9.
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.
This is a radical mindset that I do not even, and I suspect you do not either, begin to approach. We have little conception of what it is like to truly depend upon God for sufficiency each day.
My wife and I went through times of great testing and difficulty in our ministry years ago. We did learn what it means to depend upon God, more or less on a weekly basis, to meet our bills when we were not certain if we would have sufficient funds. But who among us has come to the place where you daily look to God alone?
Give us this day our daily bread means that day by day your Father in heaven is sufficient to meet your needs. It is like the old adage, “life inch by inch is a cinch, but by the yard it is hard.” We need to take life inch by inch, day by day, knowing our Father in heaven is sufficient to meet our needs. In humility you can pray, Father give me today what is sufficient for me, and he responds to your heartfelt petition.
That is if you are committed to seeing his rule and reign expand in your life. Jesus is more than a fireman waiting for you to dial a heavenly 911. He is the bread of life and if you are partaking of him. You have life, you have guidance and sufficiency each day, not just in times of calamity.
The petition emphasizes today. The word daily here is obscure and subject to thirteen different translations or meanings.
From the Hebraic point-of-view, it seems Jesus is saying that you (collectively) should pray to the Father for what is needed, what is sufficient for the day. In Exodus 16 we have the story of the manna, the gathering of lechem each day. Obviously, this is the great image that Jesus has in mind when he speaks of daily bread. Israel was in the wilderness, and there they learned dependency upon God.
In their arrogance, they did not get to go into their inheritance as speedily as God intended. They could have entered that promised land if they had been humble and depended upon him. Instead, because of their pride, murmuring, and idolatry, they had to wait in the wilderness. The LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not (Deut 8:2).
Yet during their time of trial and testing in the wilderness, the Holy One of Israel met their needs with daily bread called manna. This is our Father in action.
Manna, in Hebrew, is a play on words. The Israelites walked out and saw this stuff lying on the ground and said, "what is it?" (ma'n hu in Hebrew). Thus, manna literally means "what is it?". And the "what is it?" God gave them was sufficient for each day. By having them collect just enough for the day thereof, he overcame that dual impulse of the fear of poverty and the lust for more.
If you took more than what is necessary for the day it would spoil. There was only one occasion each week where you would take a double portion, on Friday so that on the next day, the Sabbath, you could rest. This is the imagery behind the phrase give us this day our daily bread. God wants us to be in a manna relationship with him. He wants us to realize we need only to think of the sufficiency for today and our dependency upon him.
God is our source and our salvation. He who created the day also created its sustenance.
The issue is that God is the source, both naturally and supernaturally. There are those scholars who believe they know what the manna was, like some kind of growth on certain kinds of trees. It does not matter whether that is so or not. Our distinction between natural and supernatural is an artificial distinction.
If I have a financial need and someone gives me money to meet that need, it is a gift from God. I do not have to walk out and stumble across a gold coin in the grass for it to be from God. If it comes from you, it is from God through you. You are simply the steward and the prosperous one who gives generously. So whether sustenance comes naturally or supernaturally, it comes from our Father because he is the source.
And he is our allotted portion!
Israel's sages asked, "Who is a wealthy man?" Their answer? "He who is content with what God gives him." Contentment does not come from your bank account or from your possessions. Contentment arises from the peace of God in a satisfied heart.
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This study is from a professionally produced transcription of the audio recording. It was edited for readability by the team at JC Studies.
Dwight A. Pryor (1945-2011) was a gifted Bible teacher of exceptional clarity and depth who earned the friendship and admiration of both Christian and Jewish scholars—in the United States and Israel—as well as the respect and appreciation of followers of Jesus around the world. His expertise in the language, literature, and culture of Israel during the life and time of Jesus and the early church yield insights that nourish every area of faith and practice.
Dwight founded JC Studies in 1984 to edify the people of God. Click here to explore over fifty of his audio and video seminars.