Principles of Prayer
by Francis Foulkes ©


4. Prayer for the provision of our needs

"Your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things".
'Our heavenly Father disdains not to take our body under his charge and protection, that he may exercise our faith in those minute matters, while we look to him for everything, even to a morsel of bread and a drop of water.'
(John Calvin)

The petition "Give us this day our daily bread" is the first clause in the prayer in which we are led to bring to God our own needs. It is an acknowledgment of our dependence on God for the provision of whatever we require in our lives day by day. We need to consider quite carefully the words of this petition, its form and its scope.

We can certainly take it as a petition for the meeting of both our physical and our spiritual needs. There is much else in the Scriptures, in ways that we will consider further, that shows how we should bring our constant spiritual needs to God. But the Bible certainly encourages us to bring our physical needs to him. When Hebrew people offered their first fruits, they prayed, "Look down from your holy habitation, from heaven, and bless the ground that you have given us ---" (Deut.26:15). In the blessing of Joseph in Deuteronomy 33:13-15 there is the prayer, "Blessed by the Lord be his land, with the choice gifts of heaven above, and of the deep that lies beneath; with the choice fruits of the sun, and the rich yield of the months; with the finest produce of the ancient mountains, and the abundance of the everlasting hills --." In Exodus 15:25 we have Israel's cry to God for the water that they needed, and in Zechariah 10:1 the prayer for rain.

All our needs are encompassed in this petition of the Lord's Prayer. People often scoff at Christians who bring to God mundane details of their lives. Sometimes it may indeed seem impertinence and our human pride and folly that we think that we can bring those little details of our lives to the One who is Creator and Lord of all. We need to remember, however, that the Designer and Creator of the galaxies is also the Creator of the tiny cells that make up all living forms, the DNA molecules that determine those forms, the atom and its constituent parts that scientists have discovered, 'thinking God's thoughts after him'. Above all we know that the teaching of Jesus does nothing to discourage praying in detail for our needs. Jesus teaches that the hairs of our head are numbered, and that the loving God who is aware when a sparrow falls to the ground, has a concern for the little things that make up our lives (Lk.12:6-7). None the less, the teaching of Jesus in general and the implications of this prayer in particular, discourage selfish prayers, prayers for our own convenience and comfort that overlook the needs of others and neglect concern for the honouring of the name of God and the doing of his will. It may also be added that we are instructed to pray for "bread", for the staff of life, for needs, and not wants, for necessities and not for luxuries (cf. Phil.4:19). We cannot with confidence pray for luxuries while millions in the world are starving, whether physically or spiritually. Nor can we pray for our comfort at the price of others' discomfort.

The use of "our" rather than "my" in the words of this petition itself reminds us that we are to think of the needs of others and not just our own. It is one of the great privileges of prayer that we can bring the needs of others to God, the needs of those far away, the needs of others whom we can do nothing to help except by prayer. That prayer may be simply the bringing of their needs to God and leaving them in his hands, just as we read in the Gospels of the disciples simply telling Jesus of the need of Simon's mother-in-law (Mk.1:30), and the two sisters of Lazarus simply sending the message to Jesus that their brother was ill (Jn.11:3). The prayer for our daily bread is the trusting prayer that our daily needs will be met, whatever those needs are, and that is what Hebrews 4:16 speaks of with assurance. We can approach the throne of God as a throne of grace and there "receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need."

Finally on this clause we should note the significance of the word "daily". The word in the Greek original of the New Testament is not the most natural word to use for "daily", and, as commentaries on the Gospel show, it is a word difficult to translate. It probably has the sense of 'for the coming day' , thus indicating our prayer is for the provision of what are our immediate needs (16). Then, as is the teaching of Jesus about trust in Matthew 6:25-34, the further future can be left in God's hands.