For those churches who still follow the practice of saying the Lord’s Prayer each week we pray “give us this day our daily bread.” As a child I can recall thinking this was about me getting lunch, almost another version of saying grace before a meal. But it was a prayer about me and my hunger.
As I grew up I came to a new understanding that bread was also a symbol of life and gradually the words came to be about God’s providence of the basic necessities of life: food + water + shelter = bread! In the Western culture in which I am embedded I have no doubt that this prayer of providence was shaped by what else I thought I might need to operate as a citizen in the affluent culture. The words expanded in their meaning and I possibly thought they applied to the others who prayed them with me but really it was about me.
As me spiritual understanding deepened a new layer of meaning was added to the words when I began to think about Jesus words to his disciples “I am the bread of life.” Give us this day Jesus?! The appeal for daily bread was an appeal for sustenance in life that was both physical and spiritual. Layers of meaning being added on and my insights were growing. The connection of bread to Jesus and sustenance also began to have an overtone of communion when we share the bread and wine as signs of Jesus presence.
Yet still God had more to teach me about this prayer as I stopped being focussed on the word bread in the prayer and began to toy with who the ‘us’ might be. Jesus presence in the world is all about breaking down barriers, it is as Paul says about the “reconciliation of all things in Christ.” Who is the ‘us’? Not just those who pray the prayer because we are called to priests, intercessors, a light to the nations. Surely the ‘us’ is everyone, all people, all religions, all places, all times. “Give us this day our daily bread” becomes a petition for physical and spiritual sustenance for everyone.
How important are these words in a world where the consequences of physical and spiritual hunger can be dire? How important is it to understand when we receive that bread, spiritual or physical, that it is there to be shared with others not simply protected? Is the prayer not also a call to share our daily bread as well?!
Think about the tensions in our globe and in our communities. How often can war, violence, fear, prejudice, discrimination, protectionism, ignorance be attributed to a lack of bread?
Let us pray “Give us this day our daily bread” give us all, everyone, bread for our bodies and our souls. Amen