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God’s Word for You

Luke 11:3 The Fourth Petition

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, July 3, 2018

THE LORD’S PRAYER: THE FOURTH PETITION

3 Give us each day our daily bread.

“Daily” (epiousios, ἐπιούσιος) is a word unknown in earlier, classical Greek. Writing in the third century, the scholar Origen said that this word “is found with no Grecian, nor with the learned, nor in the language of any, but seems to be a new formation of the evangelist.” Jesus might have had in mind Solomon’s phrase, “the food of my portion” (NIV “daily bread”) in Proverbs 30:8. The Greek word used by Matthew and Luke (ἐπιούσιος) might be derived in one of two ways. Modern Greek scholars tend to think it comes from epeimi, “to approach,” and therefore means “bread from the coming day / tomorrow’s bread.” Ancient Greek commentators (who spoke Greek themselves) thought it came from epi ten ousian (ἐπὶ τὴν οὐσίαν), “what is necessary.” I think that the more ancient idea is also the more likely, and that Jesus meant “the bread of necessity; the bread for each day.” Another minor point is that while Matthew quotes Jesus in this petition as saying, “Give us…,” Luke says, “Keep on giving us.”

The seven petitions or requests of the Lord’s Prayer teach us something about the priorities in all of our prayers. The first three petitions focus on our relationship with God: upholding his name (and therefore his holy word), the gathering of his kingdom, and carrying out his will. The last three petitions are all about our relationship with the sin in our lives: asking for forgiveness, asking not to be tempted, and delivering us from the devil. In a manner of speaking, these six petitions have focused our attention and our prayers on things in the unseen world above and on things in the unseen world below. However, in the middle three petitions (which overlap: doing the will of God on earth from the first group and forgiving others in the last group) also include one other petition: Give us our daily bread. In this one petition alone is there time spent in asking God for things we need. God also knows the things we desire; we don’t really need to ask about them. They will appear in our lives as part of the blessings he gives to us his servants. He knows us, but he wants us to pray especially about the things we truly need—our daily bread—because even though he will surely give it, he wants us to understand what it is, and to pray for it.

This is a reminder of the daily bread or manna which God gave to his people in the wilderness during their forty years of wandering. He would have given it to them whether they asked for it or not, and many of them probably didn’t ask but only gave thanks. But he wants us to know that he will provide for us just as he provided for them.

Although some church fathers maintained that Jesus was only speaking about spiritual food here, the “bread of life” (John 6:35,48), Melanchthon said that “they lack erudition and spiritual judgment.” Luther dashes off a comprehensive list of the sort of things included in our daily bread: “food and drink, clothing and shoes, house and home, land and cattle, money and goods, a godly spouse, godly children, godly workers, godly and faithful leaders, good government, good weather, peace and order, health, a good name, good friends, faithful neighbors, and the like.” What we need to remember about these things is that our own sinful nature wages war against God’s gifts, and we can easily rid ourselves of food, clothing, house, and property with our own stupid foolishness. We can allow our sinful nature to steer us clear of a godly spouse and end up with the opposite: a hateful witch who despises Christ and will do anything to keep their children out of the church. The church is full of examples of those who faithfully come to worship all alone, heartbroken that their spouse and children will have nothing to do with the grace of the Lord or the love of God. This is not necessarily a parent who has failed, but who has been faithful and is now suffering “all kinds of trials” (1 Peter 1:6) which may yet result in the salvation of those fragile souls.

When we pray for our daily bread, we can be confident that the Almighty God knows what it is that we need, that he also knows what the things are that we don’t need but simply want, and the sorts of things we would never even think of asking for, but which we need to carry out his will in the world. Trust in him as you pray. Be confident that whatever you need will be supplied to the very top until your cup overflows.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

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Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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