Who needs bread?

Give us this day our daily bread Matthew 6:11

This is the line that makes this a prayer to be used by the poor. We rich, and I include myself and most people reading this, generally know where our next meal is coming from. We may have other forms of poverty: loneliness, isolation, low self esteem; we may wonder, as I did in my long years of unwanted singleness, where the next hug is coming from, or where the next affirmation is coming from, or where the next human contact of any kind is coming from. The abused woman may wonder when the next few days without being hit is coming; the over-pushed child, when the next break from schoolwork is coming – even though they may not lack food. And it is valid to pray this prayer as one of those people: ‘Lord, give me this day my daily conversation, even if it’s only at the supermarket checkout, or on the phone’.

But Jesus made it quite clear with this sentence that he expected his disciples to be insecure enough to need to pray for their next meal. He expected the poor and the marginalized to follow him, and he expected any rich and secure people who followed, to set themselves alongside the poor and marginalized by giving up their privileges. How do we dare to pray this prayer when we are entirely confident of our daily bread? I’m not sure if I do. I want to pray ‘Give them – the developing world, foodbank Britain – their daily bread’ but if I do, I am afraid of hearing ‘That’s your job’.

Incidentally, the word here translated ‘daily’ is a ‘hapax legomenon’, a word that only occurs this once in Scripture, and is unknown elsewhere in Greek literature; consequently we don’t know its exact meaning. It could mean ‘sufficient’ or ‘just enough’ bread, rather than ‘daily’. This raises an interesting possibility: that we are not to pray for ‘abundant’ or ‘too much’ bread, but only what we need each day, to keep us depending on God’s provision. Should we, in fact, perhaps be praying ‘Help us to give away our surplus bread’?

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About veronicazundel

I'm a professional writer and amateur mother, and belong to the only (so far) non-conservative, English-speaking, Mennonite church in the UK. I live in north London with my husband, adult son and a fat fluffy cat. I eat Marmite on matzo crackers every morning.
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