Give us day by day our daily bread.
This is a prayer for each morning — a daily prayer for daily bread, even for this day's bread. To offer this prayer, therefore, as many do, after the day or every repast of the day is finished, is to make it a thing of form, when it is nothing in the fact; which is about the worst dishonour that could any way be done it. Whether Jesus means this prayer to be used every morning or not, He does, at least, give honour and sanction to the daily observance of morning prayer. And it is under His sanction thus given, that I draw out now, for your consideration, this great law of practical Christian living: THAT WE NEED TO KEEP FIXED TIMES, OF APPOINTED ROUNDS OF OBSERVANCE, AS TRULY AS TO BE IN HOLY IMPULSE; TO HAVE PRESCRIBED PERIODS IN DUTY AS TRULY AS TO HAVE A SPIRIT OF DUTY; TO BE IN THE DRILL OF OBSERVANCE AS WELL AS IN THE LIBERTY OF FAITH.
1. The argument, commonly slated, as against the obligation of fixed times and ways of observance in religion, contains a fatal oversight. It is very true that mere rounds of observance, however faithfully kept, have in themselves no value; nothing of the substance of piety; but they have an immense value when kept, and meant to be, as the means of piety. This, in fact, is the very particular blessing of prayer, that when we are averted from it, and slacked in all our inclination toward it, we may still get our fire kindled by it. When we go to it, therefore, by fixed times of observance, we do just what is necessary to beget fixed inclinations, and train the soul into a habit of abiding impulse.
2. Let me ask your attention now to the grand analogies of time and routine movement in the world you live in. What could we do in a world where there are no appointed times, no calculable recurrences, no grand punctualities? Such a world would be really valueless; we could do nothing with it, and simply because it has no fixed times. And for just this reason God has consented to inaugurate the sublime routine necessary to its uses, determining the times before appointed, and the bounds of our habitation. And so very close does God come to us in this matter of times or of natural routine;-that our hearts beat punctually in it, our breath heaves in it like the panting tides of the ocean, and the body itself, and with it also the mind, is a creature of waking and sleeping, of alternating consciousness and unconsciousness, like the solar day and night of the world. And yet some cannot think it a matter sufficiently dignified to have any prescribed times in religion. Though God Himself is a Being of routine, though the everlasting worlds are bedded in routine, though their very bodies and minds are timed in it, like a watch, or the earth's revolution, still they are jealous of any such thing in religion, and refuse it, as an infringement on their liberty.
3. I refer you again to the analogy of your own courses in other things, and also to the general analogies of business. Which do we suppose to be in the best conditions of comfort, dignity, and good keeping, the savage tribes that have no set times for their meals, or we that feed in the exact routine of the civilized table? What figure of success will any man make in business who has no fixed hours? If, then, there is nothing men do with effect in the world of business, despising the law of times, how does it happen that they can expect, with any better reason, to succeed in the matter of their religion — their graces, charities, and prayers? Wherein does it appear to be absurd, to assume that the soul wants times of feeding as regular, and frequent, and punctual, as the body.
4. Consider the reason of the Sabbath, where it is assumed that men are creatures, religiously speaking, of routine, wanting it as much as they do principles, fixed times as much as liberty. A very considerable part of the value of the Sabbath consists in the drill of its times; that it comes when we do not ask for it, commands us to stop when we desire to go on, calls us off to worship by a summons astronomically timed, and measured by the revolutions of the world.
5. The Scriptures recognize the value of prescribed times and a fixed routine of duty in other ways more numerous than can be well recounted. Thus in the old religion, the sacrifices, great feasts, &c. The holy men had all their times. If we have no times in religion but such as we take by mere impulse or inclination, we shall fall away at last from all times and all duties. Let anyone take the ground, for example, that he will never pray except when he is drawn to it, and he will less and less frequently be drawn.
(H. Bushnell, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Give us day by day our daily bread.