MARTIN LUTHER’S CATECHISM ON THE FOURTH PETITION OF THE LORD’S PRAYER
What does this mean? God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.
What is meant by daily bread? Daily bread includes everything that has to do with the support and needs of the body, such as food, drink, clothing, shoes, house, home, land, animals, money, goods, a devout husband or wife, devout children, devout workers, devout and faithful rulers, good government, good weather, peace, health, self-control, good reputation, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.
There is a TV series called ‘Doomsday Preppers. As I understand it, an entire subculture of people are building bomb shelters and stockpiling vast quantities of supplies – including weapons – so that when the roof falls in – as they are convinced it will – they will survive and defend themselves against those who did not plan ahead. Many of these people are apparently prepared to kill in order to keep what they have.
Whatever the merits of advanced planning may be, this seems to me a perfect illustration of what happens when the “I’ve got mine, you get yours” mentality is taken to the limit. When anxiety over life and the future sets in this is the kind of thing that happens. We look to ourselves to get what we think we need and want. We start believing that everything depends on us, is in our hands. And accompanying such worry, such anxiety is abject fear. We become distrustful until one worry feeds upon another and the circle of anxiety closes in around us.
The Doomsday Preppers are looking at the present and future through a grid of fear and dread. That’s the world they envision so that’s the one they are preparing for. And if we are honest we must admit that this is a temptation for us as well. In the Lord’s prayer, however, simply by turning us toward the reality of the giveness of each day, our Lord Jesus gives us language that sees a very different present and future. He turns us away from fearful, self-preoccupation toward the basic truth that we are dependent upon God for all things – including the future – and since our gracious Father provides us with every good and perfect gift, we can trust that He will provide us with a good future as well.
It is for this reason that Martin Luther, in his explanation to the petition, expands daily bread – daily sustenance – to include so many other aspects of life. Where God is concerned independence is a myth, a myth that can lead to rabid selfishness, bomb shelters and an arsenal of guns to fend off the neighbors. Instead Jesus teaches His disciples to ask – to ask God to give, to provide, so that our hearts and minds are turned, again, to God’s promises. Then we may begin to see God providing for every need and giving every good.
In this petition of the Lord’s Prayer, therefore, we ask to be taken outside of ourselves, to be shielded from fear, even as we ask God for the good and gracious gifts necessary for daily living.
At the same time, mindful of the Bread of Heaven who meets our spiritual hunger, we anticipate the gift of God’s Word, Jesus Christ. He is the Bread of Life, who on the cross gave Himself for us, providing that sustenance, even unto eternal, that the frightened, self-possessed world neither knows nor gives.
“May the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in
Christ Jesus Our Lord.”