The Lord’s Prayer is a fascinating, deeply complex, and surprisingly simple prayer. This series articles pairs a stained glass window from a small church with each petition of the Lord’s Prayer. In each post, we will see how the symbols in the window help us to understand what Jesus says to us when he commands us to pray this chief prayer. Check out the previous posts in this series:
Jesus teaches wisdom through his sermons in addition to sharing the gospel. He tells us about the human condition, and he delineates our relationship with God as receivers of God’s good gifts. One of the most famous passages from the sermon on the mount helps us see just that.
“Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” Matthew 6:25-27
The image for this petition is a sheaf of wheat. It points us to the grain that the miller grinds to flour which the baker mixes with water, salt, and yeast to make bread. But daily bread is more than just bread. It is everything that we need to support our body and life.
God does provide those things to us, especially in America. We have an abundance of good things coming to us. Nearly everyone in this country is better off than people were 60 years ago. The average house size in 1950 was 983 square feet, and the average family size was 3.4 people. In 2014, the average house size was 2,678 square feet and family size has dropped to an average of 2.5 people. Our groceries cost less than they have at any time in history. Americans spent only 9.9% of their income on food in 2013 compared to 17.5% in 1950. What’s more amazing is that we have access to food that the J. D. Rockefeller couldn’t have bought if he spent his entire fortune.
God also provides improved circumstances worldwide. Global poverty is disappearing at an amazing rate. The World Bank estimated that 1.9 billion people lived in extreme poverty, less than one dollar per day, in 1990. In 2015, their estimate is 702 million. That’s a 74% decline in 25 years. It’s amazing what God does to provide!
He does it of his own free will, because he loves us. Jesus describes our Father’s provision for everyone, even evil people, “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:44-45). God gives to everyone, regardless of their faith. Some faithful people have more than they need. Some have less. Some unfaithful people have overwhelming wealth, and some have nothing. God decides what he gives and to whom without our input.
We look to God with thanksgiving when he provides. Martin Luther writes about the prayer in his small catechism, “God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers, even to all evil people, but we pray in this petition that God would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” God’s work is hidden behind worldly things, so we have to see past them to understand what he’s doing. This prayer helps us to turn to God with thanksgiving when he gives us the things we need to support our lives.
God’s gift of daily bread is not just what we need to survive. The church has long seen the sheaf of wheat to represent the heavenly bread that sustains our faith, Jesus Christ himself. Tertullian, a second century church father, wrote about this petition in his work, On Prayer , “For Christ is our Bread; because Christ is Life, and bread is life. I am, says He, the Bread of Life; and, a little above, The Bread is the Word of the living God, who came down from the heavens. Then we find, too, that His body is reckoned in bread: This is my body.”
Jesus, himself, is the true bread that we need from God. He sustains our lives by his resurrection from the dead. Jesus said in John, chapter six, "I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” This is the ultimate daily bread, because it provides for us even when we die. It is a promise that Jesus will return to raise us back to life.
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