The chief biblical unit of time measurement seems to be the day. We have the days of creation, the coming Day of the Lord, days of gladness, days of sadness, feast days, festival days… and we are graciously told that our Lord’s mercy and compassion come to us anew every day (Lam 3:22-23).
We have those words of Paul the apostle, which are glossed over when we’re young and increasingly embraced as we grow older. He tells us that although the aging process is causing our physical body to “waste away,” the story does not end there. Our spiritual union with Christ allows us to be inwardly renewed “day by day.”
The word day occurs about 1700 times in the Bible – and that doesn’t include plurals and possessives!
In that famous lesson in prayer (Mt 6:9-13) we find in that equally famous passage of Scripture called The Sermon on the Mount (5:1-7:29), we are instructed to pray for our daily bread.
I used to struggle with this, conceptually.
I found it easy to be thankful for my daily bread, but felt uncomfortable praying for it. For while there sadly are many people who need, even in America, to pray for daily bread, that has never been my reality. I felt disingenuous doing it.
Then one day I had one of those experiences that make you feel a bit thick after you have it.
A whole new reality opened up for me in the application of this prayer once I substituted the word needs for bread.
Provide for us this day our daily needs
It is a prayer for provision – a prayer to be upheld, supported… sustained throughout the day.
Why? Because of another reality found later on in the Sermon on the Mount – Sufficient for the day are the troubles of that day.
If we aren’t careful, we will multiply our load beyond the day. We will borrow worries and fears for tomorrow and thereby increase our anxiety for today. And as Scottish novelist and physician A. J. Cronin tells us, Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, but only saps today of its strength.
We are not, thank God, omniscient. We don’t know what the day will bring.
For most of us, most days are filled with regularity… perhaps that’s why we’ve ceased to pray for our daily bread.
But just as grape vines are destroyed by little foxes, little problems can be allowed to ruin a day. The maturity to handle minor irritations wisely and serenely is an example of daily bread.
Of course, not all problems are minor. We may be faced with a heart-busting tragedy this day. Another reason we are wise to start the morning off with give us this day…
In 2 Kings 25 we read of a gift given by a Babylonian king, to a Hebrew king. The benefactor is the son and successor of the great Nebuchadnezzar – the beneficiary is the exiled Jehoiachin. The beneficence was this:
And as for his provisions, there was a regular ration
given him by the king,
a portion for each day, all the days of his life.
A far greater King has offered us far greater provisions because he is able to supply sustenance for a far greater range of needs.
And we never know what those needs will be when we awake on any given morning:
– an extra supply of that unmerited favor we call grace
– strength we never imagined needing when we went to bed the night before
– unforeseen financial assistance
– that rare commodity called peace
– the spiritual equivalent of a divine hug for a broken heart
– a portion of that ministration we annoyingly insist on calling tough love
– a warm meal or a warm coat
– the loving support of family or friend
– an extra dose of encouragement
We never know what the day will require.
Like most other areas, I fail at practicing consistency here… at regularly praying for daily bread. I no longer struggle with it conceptually as I once did, now it’s a matter of consistency.
And no doubt I add to my frustrations, worries, irritations, and anxieties on that day because of it. It needs to be a more consistent part of my daily practice.
Can you relate?