Give us day by day our daily bread.
As we repeat this formula with its bread and private interests deferred to the second leaf, I think it will occur to us sometimes how much has still to be wrought within us before the order of desires in our heart will conform to the order of desires in this prayer, and before we can sincerely comply with the requirement of our Lord, "After this manner, therefore, pray ye." So much for the place which the petition of our text occupies in the prayer. Another of its features of interest is that it authorizes us to carry our religion into the details and every-day affairs of life — Give us bread. It singles out a common matter and puts us in religious relation to it. It lets religion into the interior of life, instead of putting it upon the margin as an appendix or after-thought. There is no danger of giving to religion an exaggerated greatness, but there is of giving to it an isolated greatness — holding it apart, pushing it into the firmament, and making an inaccessible sun of it, instead of making of it the familiar sunshine, enswathing every little thing with light, lying down among all the valleys, putting a finer life into every blade of grass, and a beautiful tint on every bead of dew. There is truth in what an Englishman has said: "We are not to look at religion itself, but at surrounding things with the help of religion." Our text reminds us that we may look at so common a thing as bread with the help of religion. Another fact of which our text reminds us is, that God is the Author and Dispenser of our common benefits; that God is personally near us, and that His thought and interest run out into all our little concerns. "O God, do Thou give to us bread!" This petition is composed in the spirit with which the whole of Scripture is animated, that God is personally immanent in all which transpires, and personally sympathetic with all which needs and suffers. "He watereth the hills from His chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man." "Consider the grass, God arrayeth it; the lilies, God clotheth them; the ravens, He feedeth them." Give us this day our daily bread. All this is full of childlikeness and simple-mindedness. It makes God's relation to us very immediate, and His goodness to us very direct and personal. It almost lifts us over on to the inner-side of God's mercy-seat, and sets us almost at the exact spot where God keeps His bounties. It is, I say, a very childlike way of putting the case, "Give us bread to-day." It sounds a little foreign and strange when uttered by persons of thoughtful and mature years. It sounds like an echo from out different times and distant generations. Children pray in that way to-day, but adults do not unless they are praying an inherited prayer brought in from another age. And it is remarkable that although our Lord's prayer is so short, room was made in it for the doctrine that in every event of nature God is the personal agent. That is all involved in the petition of our text. The last thing we shall notice about this petition is that it teaches us to ask God for one day's benefits at a time: Give us this day (give us to-day) our daily bread. It looks as though the petition contemplated quite another condition of things and state of society from what now exists. Christ and His disciples could appreciate the exact form of this request. We cannot. It is not easy to pray devoutly for sustenance that we already have in store. We are not concerned for to-day. Our desires outrun the clock. We pray about to-day, but think about to-morrow and the day after. We have all we need now, but are afraid we shall not have by and by. No man is contented with enough; and yet a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth. To be discontented is to desire to find a week's manna fallen on the morning of each day. "Give us this day our daily bread," then, means that the Christian policy of life is to receive life's necessities, bear its burdens, meet its temptations, encounter its uncertainties, and endure its griefs one day at a time, and to depend upon God to make us sufficient for each day's crosses and emergencies. It is better to go to sleep to-night thanking God for what He has helped us to do to-day than asking Him to help us do as much, and more, tomorrow. "Give us to-day our daily bread," — there is nothing in the Lord's prayer about to-morrow. It is Christian to feel as the night-traveller does, who knows that the road before his feet will become light just as fast as it is illuminated by the candle which he carries and which moves as he moves.
(C. H. Parkhurst, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Give us day by day our daily bread.