November 17, 2014
Praying for Bread
Huckleberry Finn first heard about prayer from Miss Watson, who told him that prayer was something you did everyday, and that you would get what you asked for. So he tried praying for hooks for his fishing line, but when he didn't get what he asked for, he decided, "No, there ain't nothing in it."
Prayer is a strange activity. There are times when it almost comes naturally to us, while at other times, like Huck, we say we "couldn't seem to make it work."
When the disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, He replied: "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. And forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone indebted to us. And do not bring us to the time of trial.'"(Luke 11:1-4)
The Lord's Prayer is not just the good advice Jesus had to offer about praying; it is His praying. In giving His followers this prayer, Jesus was following a common rabbinic pattern. When a rabbi taught a prayer, He would use it to teach his disciples the most distinctive, concise, essential elements of His own teachings. Thus, disciples would learn to pray as their teacher prayed, and from then on, when a disciple's prayer was heard, it would sound like His teacher's prayers.
When Christians pray the Lord's Prayer today, we rehearse the lessons He most wanted us to learn.
Unlike fishing hooks, the prayer for daily bread is foundational. News of world food shortages, the prevalence of malnourishment, and volatile food prices remind us that cries for basic provision are appropriate and necessary. In other words, bread is not merely the private concern of those who need something to eat. Our daily bread is something that affects friends, neighbors, and communities.
Christ's prayer for daily bread, then, is not just a prayer for food and clothing, but also for good neighbors, good rulers, and good conscience as we face need and want together.
Our prayer for daily bread can be a reminder that we do not live in a vacuum before God. Rather, we live in communities where we are responsible for one another. Praying for daily bread, we are simultaneously the wealthy who can respond to the needs around us in gratitude for all that God has given us and the impoverished who cry out for the daily bread we need and the God who sustains us. We are both the rich and the poor. In difficult days, in plentiful days, might ours be a united cry to God: Give us this day our daily bread.
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