In the African country in which I grew up, like the ancient Middle East, your diet would be heavy on bread. It comes to stand for all that you need, as Jesus teaches you to pray in Matthew 6:11.
Give us our daily bread. Ask for your daily bread. The word translated “daily” is rare (no uncontested usage in ancient literature outside of text and Luke 11:3). It could mean, “what we need for existence.” More likely is, “what we need for the current day.” Those concepts blend, and the traditional “daily” is a good translation. God is concerned with all of your life. The prayer begins with God (the preface and petitions 1-3) and moves on to your needs. The structure parallels the Ten Commandments, which begin with your duty to God and continue with your duty to you fellow men. Model this in your prayers (do they tend to focus on your desires?). God is concerned with all of your needs. God is not concerned only about your “spiritual” needs. Rather, no detail of life is too small to escape his concern. All of life is encompassed by this prayer, and thus all of life is holy. It is all to be lived to his glory.
Jesus requires moderation in your request. “Bread” includes all that you need to maintain your physical life. God does bless richly, often giving far more than merely the necessities. “As Israel required daily manna, so we require daily ‘bread.’ We confess that w3e are poor, weak, wanting creatures, and beseech Him who is our Maker to take care of us. We ask for ‘bread,’ as the simplest of our wants, and in that word we include all that our bodies require.” (J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Matthew – Mark, page 52). All creation can be used to God’s glory, 1 Corinthians 10:26; Psalm 24:1. Enjoy God’s gifts. They are good! This petition echoes the spirit of Proverbs 30:7-9. Pray for enough to meet your needs, lest you be tempted to steal. Pray that God would preserve you from having too much, and disowning him.
Give us our daily bread today. God gives you your bread when you need it. Ask daily for what you need. Remember how God gave manna daily to his people in the wilderness. God supplies your needs as they arise, not always in advance, but just when you need them. This does not prohibit a legitimate planning for the future, but it does require you to make those plans with James’ “If it is the Lord’s will…” James 4:15. Do not worry about your needs. The prohibition against worry (verses 25ff) grows out of this petition. God assures you that you that you need not worry, Philippians 4:5-9. Don’t waste the energy God gives you to deal with today’s challenges by worrying about what has not yet happened, and may not even happen. “[P]art of what it means to recognize God as our heavenly Father is to trust him for food and drink and clothing, and this petition expresses that trust in its simplest form” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew, p. 247).
Depend on your Father for all that you need. Your Father meets your needs. He cares for the least creature, verses 26 and 28. He has given you the gift of his Son, and will not withhold anything you really need (not identical to anything you want!). As the sovereign Creator he can do everything that you ask–and then more. The prayer teaches you humility, for you must come to God with your requests. You are dependent upon him for everything. Trust totally in your Father. Remember that this prayer is addressed to “our Father in heaven.” “[T]he whole life of prayer must be ruled by…faith in God’s fatherhood (Matt. 7:7-12; Luke 11:9-3).” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p.268). You can pray this truly only as you trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior. Apart from him you have no claim on God’s blessings. Don’t believe the manipulations of the “health and wealth” preachers. This petition does not assume that you avoid suffering, or that you always get what you think you need. Perhaps you cannot understand why God sometimes delays an answer, or answers in what seems to be a strange way. Before you jump to the conclusion that he is unfair, remember how he gave his Son up to suffering and death for your sake. “[We are not] confronted with a kind of naive optimism of faith which has not yet discerned the problem of history and the riddle of suffering. But everything becomes intelligible only against the background of God’s fatherhood in Christ.” (Ridderbos, p.268). Because God is your Father in Jesus Christ, ask him for his blessing as you enjoy his good gifts.
Only your Father in heaven can meet your needs. Ask him for your bread–today.
“[I]n its present context it [the petition, ‘Give us this day our daily bread’] can unmistakably be understood only from the new relation to God given with Christ’s coming. Just like the exhortation not ‘to take thought,’ it is as Christologically determined as the petition for the remission of sins. In both cases the basis of the petition and its answer is found in God’s fatherhood as realized in the coming of Christ.” (Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom, p. 268).