Everyone I know can recite at least some of the Lord’s Prayer. At primary school in the province of KwaZulu-Natal, I had to recite it daily in King James English.
Some of it was a complete enigma to me. One line of the prayer always reminded me of garbage cans! I can’t remember which line it was, and I can’t imagine the connection now, then again I was only six.
Today it’s different, because public prayer is banned. It’s ironic since South Africa is supposedly a Christian country.
The Lord’s Prayer has been analyzed for centuries and interpreted by a motley army of theologians who’ve written many books on the subject. I want to highlight a single line that is relevant to our age and our thinking:
Give us this day our daily bread.
This plain sentence has two layers of meaning: God is simple to the simple and complex to the complex. He exhibits both infinite simplicity as well as infinite complexity. This is to insure that no human being has an excuse for misunderstanding or disobeying Him.
The simple meaning of this verse is that we should rely on, and be thankful to God for any physical food we have, which keeps our bodies functioning in everyday living. Bread is the modest symbol for all kinds of edible food.
The ‘spiritual’ meaning is that we should rely on, and be thankful to God for any spiritual food we have. Just as physical food is represented by bread, which helps us maintain our body of flesh, spiritual food is absolutely required to keep the human spirit functioning in daily spiritual life. Once again, bread is the symbol for every variety of spiritual meal we can get.
When Jesus was tempted to turn stones into bread, He stated that human beings couldn’t survive on physical bread alone. The implication is obvious and uplifting; we need something more than physical food because we are something more than physical. When we speak of humans, we are not referring to bodies of electrochemical meat, but a spiritual and eternal creature. Jesus is saying that we survive by every word that comes from God. The Word of God is the spiritual bread we need to survive.
But how many of us, when we recite the Lord’s Prayer, beg God to supply our daily spiritual food? How often do we feel the soul’s hungry pangs and think of God’s Word as the bread that will satisfy us? And if we do, how can the daily spiritual bread of God’s Word, which seems so supernatural and distant, actually affect our normal earthly lives?
As I said earlier, bread is the simplest symbol for food. Other types of earthly food symbolize other types of spiritual food. There are three great examples in the New Testament.
Paul groaned to the Corinthians that they were so worldly, that when he gave them the Word of God, he had to resort to spiritual milk and not spiritual meat. In the same way, the writer to the Hebrews chides them, pointing out that because of their spiritually immaturity they need to re-learn the simple truths of God’s Word – milk and not solid food. The writer further explains (spiritually) that, whoever lives on milk is an infant whereas whoever lives on solid food is mature. Peter says that spiritual newborn babies must crave pure spiritual milk. The Word of God can take the form of milk for spiritual babies, or meat for spiritual adults. Again, God’s food is simple to the spiritually young and complex to the spiritually mature.
When the disciples were still spiritually young they would often misunderstand Jesus. When He spoke of spiritual meat, they assumed He was talking about physical food. They hadn’t grasped that Jesus was of such spiritual understanding that true living was spiritual living, and that everything else in life must submit to that. Jesus has revealed what fed Him spiritually, and we should seek to imitate Him.
He explains that for Him, ‘eating meat’ is to do God’s work until the end. In other words,obeying God’s precise instructions for life, until death, was what sustained Him spiritually.
I don’t know many people who think of life in this way. I know I’ve considered obeying God as a chore or an act of spending my own soul, rather than a joy of receiving life from God.
That’s because of one hugely significant difference between Jesus and myself. He’s a life-giving Spirit and I’m a living soul. He gives life. I survive by feeding off it.
But we know that we should be constantly changing and growing. Over time I must become more the life-giving spirit and less the life-taking soul.
So, Jesus says that obedience to the very end is what should feed all human beings. But what do we obey? Let’s start off with the great commandment: Love God. But with what? All your heart, all your soul, all your mind and all your strength.
This is when we realize that daily bread is necessary.
Wars are won by strategy, battles by tactics. Strategy is made up of many, smaller tactics. When the US Army rolled up into Iraq, they did it carefully and thoroughly. They had to insure that their supply lines were safe. They didn’t drive their armored cars and march their infantry straight into Baghdad. Their strategy was to take Baghdad, but it consisted of a series of smaller tactics.
Similarly, an entire life is lived out daily, so we need daily tactics to survive it. Every single day I’ve lived has been completely different to any day before or after. I’ve been in coastal Natal and in landlocked Gauteng. I’ve been a bored cashier and a harsh supervisor. I’ve been poor, rich and somewhere in between. I’ve been wise drunk and an arrogant abstinent.
If I’m going to obey God on a daily basis I’m going to need daily orders. Daily bread is daily orders.
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