Matthew 6:11

Setting and Overview
Up to this point, we have seen petitions regarding God’s glory: for His name to be hallowed, for His kingdom to come, and for His will to be done. We know see petitions for our needs, both physical and spiritual. It may be a surprise to many of it that the petitions for personal needs would start off with the physical, and especially with such a basic request as to receive our daily bread, but understood in light of the connection of what preceded and what it means for our obeying God’s will, then we can better understand its purpose here.
We see in both the Old Testament and the New Testament that food (often represented simply as “bread”), or at least the pursuit and focus on food, should not occupy as high of a position of importance to us as it does (Deuteronomy 8:3-4, Matthew 4:4.) Partly for that reason, early church fathers often interpreted this prayer to be for spiritual food (John 4:31-14, 6:26-27) or to the Lord’s Supper (John 6:48-55.) However, much of this was driven the Latin translation used in the Vulgate, and from the Reformation on, this has pretty universally been understood as a petition for literal food. Of course, it is not just bread that is meant here, but rather all of our basic nutritional needs, and even broader physical needs. We do see clearly that God recognizes our physical needs and He further acts on our behalf to meet them (Matthew 6:32, 14:13-21.) Even in light of this it may still seem strange that this petition would come before the petitions for our spiritual needs, but when we recognize that it is through that physical food that God strengthens us to live lives dedicated to Him and to carry out His will for us, then the placement makes sense.
In Jesus’ time, food had to be earned each day, and very few people had food security that went beyond the day. So, “daily bread” doesn’t simply mean to get enough food for all days in the future, but to receive enough that day to get through that day. His listeners would scarcely been able to imagine storing food to meet needs for weeks and months ahead (cf. James 2:15.) It also would have changed the way that they would have prayed for something to be “given” to them. In our culture, we usually see being given something as an alternative to earning it or working for it, but they assumed that they would have to work hard (Ephesians 4:28) and understood that even if they did, that they still might not be able to meet their needs. Rather, even if something was earned for the wages of work, it was still ultimately given by God (I Corinthians 4:7.)
Examination and Application
Is this still a valid and relevant prayer for us today, who have little concern over whether or not we will have food to eat today and tomorrow? Absolutely. Praying this reminds us that even the essentials are a gift from God, that we should work hard to meet our basic needs (II Thessalonians 3:6-12), that others are in more need and that we need to work for them as well (Ephesians 4:28, Acts 20:34-35), to accept and appreciate our dependence on God (Proverbs 30:8-9), and to grow in our contentment and joy both when we are in want and have plenty (Philippians 4:12, I Timothy 6:6-11.) So, we can pray for the desire and energy to work hard, for thankfulness as God meets our needs, for the needs of others to be met, to pursue spiritual food even more than physical food, and for contentment in every situation as we use the sustenance that we are given to serve and glorify God.
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