“Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread”
After the first three petitions of praise to God for God’s sake, the rest of the Lord’s Prayer draws us into God’s mercy as we recognize our fallen humanity and need for God’s assistance in all things. We begin with the fourth petition by praying, “Give us this day our daily bread.”
The first words of this petition – give us – are a request from us to our Father with a sense of implicit trust in His goodness. Just as a child is completely dependent and trusts his earthly father to care for his needs, we are helpless children who turn to our heavenly Father for our earthly and spiritual needs with the confidence that He will provide for us. That trust and confidence we express in asking Him to provide for us “glorifies our Father by acknowledging how good he is, beyond all goodness” (CCC #2828). Even in the act of asking something for ourselves, we cannot help but praise Him in the process because of His unending goodness.
In asking God to give something to us, rather than just to me, we show a solidarity and unity in humanity. This indicates a covenantal relationship between God and His people (CCC #2829). There is an understanding that we belong to Him and He belongs to us in a reciprocal relationship. Therefore, when we pray to God to provide for us, it is a plea to God to provide for the needs of all of humanity in their suffering and not just our own. The Lord’s Prayer is, therefore, a unitive prayer of the whole Church, which is why we often pray it together, in community.
We then move on to what it is we would like God to give to us: bread. In this case, bread sums up the entirety of our needs to sustain our lives, both spiritual and material. Since it is our Father Himself who gave us life, He cannot help but to give us everything we need to live our lives as He intends. Trusting that God will give us everything we need, we are free to abandon our worries and anxieties about present and future struggles, knowing all will be well because of the infinite goodness of our Father who loves us (CCC #2830).
While our Father does provide for our needs, He does not exclude us from working with Him to bring about solutions to our problems and to fulfill what is lacking. The Catechism references a quote attributed to St. Ignatius of Loyola: “Pray as if everything depended on God and work as if everything depended on you” (CCC #2834). In other words, God may provide all the ingredients for the bread, or the means to obtain them, but many times we are called to bake the bread ourselves. Our faith is not passive, and we must work to cooperate with God to help ourselves, while still recognizing with thanksgiving that everything good we receive comes from our Father.
Of course, we have earthly needs such as food and shelter, but we also have spiritual needs as we care for our souls and prepare them for eternal life. So, in this petition we acknowledge that the bread for which we are asking also has spiritual symbolism. What is the spiritual bread we need for the survival of our spiritual life? “…Not by bread alone does man live, but by every word that comes forth from the mouth of the Lord” (Deut 8:3, Matt 4:4). In asking God to give us our daily bread, we are also asking Him to nourish us with His word. We ought to saturate our lives in Sacred Scripture, allowing it to motivate and animate our spiritual life so that we can carry out God’s will in everything we do. The Catechism says, “There is a famine on earth, ‘not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord’” (CCC #2835). This statement seems to be truer today than ever before, as we see societal deterioration everywhere we look. Therefore, it is our Christian responsibility, in solidarity with the human race, to proclaim the Word of God in both word and deed. By doing so, we participate with God in the nourishment of society as we work to end spiritual poverty and famine in this world.
As Catholics, the other spiritual nourishment we receive in physical bread is the Eucharist, which we can consume on a daily basis. This sacrament is how the Lord can continually pour His redemptive grace into our souls through the true presence of His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. If Jesus is the Word of God, then the Eucharist is as well, and we are allowing God’s Word to physically enter our bodies. The old adage, “you are what you eat,” has never been more accurate then when referring to the Eucharist. The more we partake in the Blessed Sacrament, the more we are conformed to Jesus. We should approach the Blessed Sacrament humbly and gratefully, as the tiny host contains everything we need to satisfy our spiritual hunger.
The use of the words “this day” and “daily” in the petition are significant as well. “This day” is the Lord’s Day. The Catechism quotes St. Ambrose saying, “If you receive the bread each day, each day is today for you. If Christ is yours today, he rises for you every day. How can this be? ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ Therefore, ‘today’ is when Christ rises” (CCC #2836). In other words, Jesus was not just here a long time ago and left, but He remains here with us today, and receiving Him every day means He is physically and spiritually with us with each passing “today.” The word “daily” indicates a perpetual repetition of “todays.” We Christians know that with the coming of the kingdom of heaven, daily becomes infinite and the Day of the Lord is eternal (CCC #2837). Therefore, our daily bread gives us a foretaste of what is to come to us when we receive our perfect nourishment in heaven.
Consider all of meanings that are implied when we ask God to give us our daily bread. What physical or temporal needs do you have? Ask God to generously provide you with the ingredients you need to bake the bread. As for your spiritual hunger, can you consume more of God’s Word in Scripture and the Eucharist? If you do not already attend a daily Mass, can you add one into your week? Or, can you commit to making a daily spiritual communion to ask Jesus to enter into you and give you the spiritual nourishment to be conformed to Him with each passing today? Even these small, simple acts can infuse our daily lives with an abundance of God’s grace, keeping us focused on our eternal destination.
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