God tells us to pray for our daily bread. The Bible gives examples that help us more deeply understand what He means by this and how to apply it today.
It’s hard to pack for a two-year journey across a barren wilderness. It’s even harder when you’re hurrying out of the country that oppressed you and your people for many years as slaves. So it’s little surprise that, a month or so into their grand exit from Egypt, the Israelites started to notice something of a rumbling in their stomachs.
Their response, however, was ridiculous. Rather than trust in the God who had just brought one of the world’s mightiest nations to its knees through supernatural plagues and then led His people through a sea without even getting them wet, they instead complained bitterly. They accused Moses, their leader, of dragging them into the wilderness to “kill this whole assembly with hunger” (Exodus 16:3).
Bread from heaven!
God responded with a miracle that would last for 40 years—every day, except the Sabbath, He sent bread from heaven. The Israelites were to “gather it according to each one’s need” (Exodus 16:16) but not “leave any of it till morning” (verse 19). Anyone who tried to be clever and stockpile for future days (excepting the Sabbath) found a nasty surprise—by the next morning, the manna “bred worms and stank” (verse 20).
For 40 years, six days a week, the Israelites would get up in the morning and gather their bread for the day, gathering a double portion only the day before the Sabbath.
And so for 40 years, the continued survival of the entire congregation of Israel depended on whether or not God provided them with bread in the morning.
A few millennia later …
Fast-forward to the present. There’s a significantly good chance you’re not reading this from your tent in the wilderness; and in all likelihood, your bread doesn’t rain from heaven so much as it gets plucked from the aisles of your local supermarket. It’s been a long, long time since the now-scattered Israelites have had to depend on manna from above. In fact, if you live in America, you live in a country where an average of 247 pounds of food is wasted per person per year.
That’s the equivalent of every American taking a pile of food the weight of Dr. Phil and throwing it in the garbage. Every year.
How does this relate to the Lord’s prayer?
When Jesus Christ gave His disciples a template for praying to God (Matthew 6:9-13), He provided a list of categories to include in our daily prayers. Important categories, like “Your kingdom come” and “forgive us our debts” and “do not lead us into temptation” and “give us this day our daily bread” and—wait, hold on.
Give us this day our daily bread? In a world that throws away mountains of unwanted food, isn’t praying for daily bread a little … outdated?
Jesus Christ also told the story of a man who found himself with more food than he knew what to do with. After a bountiful harvest—so bountiful that there wasn’t enough room to store it all—the man resolved to tear down his old barns, build bigger ones and live a life of ease for years.
His plan hit a snag, however, when “God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’” (Luke 12:20).
Overnight, the man’s possessions, however plentiful, lost all value to him.
Stockpiles are not security
As human beings, we seem to be hardwired with the inclination to stockpile stuff. We want to hoard; we want to keep; we want to possess. And so we save—we pile up goods and money and food, saving it all for a rainy day. Of course, saving is a wise principle.
However, if we’re not careful, it’s easy to start believing our stockpiles will carry us through any rainy days—that our stuff will sustain us through all of life’s difficulties. We tell ourselves that if we can just hold on to enough things to keep our heads above water, we won’t have to worry about anything.
Except for the fact that depending on stuff only breeds more worries. Because, as it turns out, food can rot. Possessions can be destroyed. Economies and, yes, entire civilizations can collapse. And when our survival hinges on a pile of stuff that can vanish in a moment, we’ll spend our lives concerned about losing our grip on those stockpiles.
The parable of the rich fool reminds us that stockpiles cannot bring security. In fact, stockpiles can actually cause us to forget the source of true security.
Why pray for daily bread?
The Israelites learned in a concrete, physical sense that without God’s continued provisions they would perish. It was literally impossible for them to stockpile manna, because it would spoil by the next morning. They were constantly aware that their food, each and every day, was provided for them directly by God.
We forget. Our breakfast doesn’t come from the heavens; it comes from a grocery store. America alone throws away tons of wasted food, and it’s easy to forget that our pantries full of meals were made possible by our Creator.
So we pray for our daily bread. We pray not just for the possession of it, but for the blessing of partaking of it. Because having it in abundance means nothing if we die or we have it ripped from us. It is a blessing from God, not ourselves.
Tucked away toward the end of Proverbs is a prayer that deepens the meaning of praying for daily bread. It is a prayer to “feed me with the food allotted to me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).
Having the “food allotted” to us helps keep us from trusting in the false god of stockpiles.
Trusting stockpiles can breed worries, but God offers us a different way—trusting Him. Christ tells us, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. … For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matthew 6:25, 32-34, emphasis added).
Pray for your daily bread. Do your part in earning it, but trust God to provide it. Don’t look to your own possessions for deliverance, but to your Father in heaven, “casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7).
Read more about prayer in our section on “Prayer, Fasting and Meditation.”