Practical Meditations on the Lord's Prayer

Newman Hall, 1889

The Fourth petition--



Some have explained this petition spiritually, as a request for spiritual bread—some sacramentally, as if the real Presence of Christ could be communicated in the Eucharist. Whatever the worth of any such ideas, the petition itself asks for things necessary for the body. It is not, like those preceding it, suited for angels as well as men. As yet we are a little lower than them, and are dependent on supplies of daily bread. Neither is it a prayer suited for the Stoicism which would regard the body as an incumbrance to be ignored, its demands despised. Nor is it a prayer of the Monasticism which would punish the body for the sins of the soul, and please the Creator of it by opposing His designs. The body He made dependent on daily bread, is to be nourished and prayed for. He Himself took our nature, and did not scorn its needs as undeserving attention because the body is less valuable than the soul. However some may fanatically or hypocritically profess to be superior to its demands, He said, "Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things." Not "He knows that you can do without them, and should rise superior to the desire for them," but "He knows that you do really need them, and therefore you may ask them from Him."

But the place allotted to this petition teaches us that God should be paramount. Not until we have asked that His Name may be hallowed, that His kingdom may come, that His will may be done, do we appropriately ask that our bread may be given. To seek exclusively the supply of bodily wants is to rise little above the beasts of the field, who "roar after their prey and seek their meat from God." Such quest is begging, not praying; or, as an old author says, "It is howling when we come to God merely for corn, wine, and oil; when we prefer these things before His glory and the graces of His Spirit." This request, though the first relating to ourselves alone, is the last for positive blessings, the remainder being deprecations of evil; and so the rule of precedence is observed, the least important coming last. Really, though not avowedly, we pray for our own highest interests when we pray for God's Name, Kingdom, and Will; but here we more explicitly plead for ourselves. Yet in so doing there is no sudden descent from heavenly to earthly things, no abrupt separation between the Divine kingdom and bodily necessities; for if we ask to do the Will of God on earth, we need to have our earthly life nourished to enable us to do it, and so we ask for bread as a help to service.

Some persons who pray for Divine help in relation to what is moral and spiritual, question the utility of asking for anything within the region of physical law. But events both great and small are influenced by men's thoughts and volitions; if God may be asked to influence these, He may be asked to direct those. And if we ask God to influence human volitions to bring about physical facts, can we suppose that His own volitions have no influence on such facts? The spiritual and the natural spheres are inseparable. God presides in both, and may be sought in relation to both. To the same Being whose Will we ask may be done, we may say, "Give us bread;" for is He not our Father, and as such must it not be His Will to supply His children's needs?

The duty, privilege, and natural instinct of an earthly parent were recognized by our Lord when He said, "If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone?" It is a child's instinct to ask food from its parent, whose instinct prompts to give it; it is the instinct of our spiritual nature to look up to God—it is a moral necessity with those who have "received the spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father." We may be unable to reply to all objections against such prayer, but if we are children of God we cannot cease from praying; and though we chiefly ask for the Divine glory and for help to trust and obey, we do promote His glory, and obey, when the filial spirit prays—"Our Father in heaven, give us this day our daily bread."


God is the universal Giver. His gifts precede His claims. We do not purchase His favor but respond to it. "We love Him because He first loved us." We do His Will because He has first taught us to say "Father." As His children we are dependent on His goodness, and say with filial confidence, Father! give! Giving implies personality, thought, emotion. We cannot ask material forces to give. It is vain to appeal to gravitation to bestow anything. What a dreary abode this world would be if deprived of God the Giver! How would all the enjoyments of life lose their highest charm, if we no longer received them as from our Father! "These are convictions the loss of which I believe to be the most inexpressible calamity which can fall either upon a man or upon a nation" (W. E. Gladstone). Were there no personal God, we could not say "Give:" were He not our Father, we could not as children come to Him day by day for bread. Our Father is the universal Giver because He is the universal Proprietor. "The earth is the Lord's, and the fullness thereof." He is the life of all that lives. "He preserves man and beast." By His providential care the innumerable tribes of living creatures are fed. "He hears the ravens that cry." The birds have neither storehouse nor barn, yet our "heavenly Father feeds them." He is always giving, so quietly that we are often unobservant of His bounty as of the silent dew; so regularly, that we notice His gifts more by their occasional seeming interruption than by their regular bestowment.

How marvelous is the supply of food throughout the ages for the support of man! Inorganic substances cannot feed him, but they are transmuted by an unfailing chemistry into vegetable products which are suitable nourishment for animals, and both become the food of man. But how is it that dead particles of earth and water and gas combine to form a plant, and arrange themselves into a complex organism which is itself alive? "There must be some power distinct from the force possessed by each particle, and superior to all, which directs the movements of each, as the general directs the movements of every soldier on the field. What is this power? You say it is Life. Yes, that is a beautiful word—but it means nothing unless it means pattern-forming mind. These wonders conduct us to the all-pervading Spirit of God, who 'makes the grass to grow upon the mountains, and satisfies the desire of every living thing.' It is not then a piece of poetry, but profoundest truth, when we say, It is God who 'gives food to all flesh'" (E. White).

This was the great truth the Israelites were taught in the wilderness. Accustomed to the abundant stores of Egypt, they had no sooner entered the desert than they felt their helplessness. In answer to their cry the manna fell. Besides furnishing necessary supplies, it taught their dependence on God for daily bread. "He fed you with manna, that He might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by everything that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord." God showed that He could feed them independently of the Nile flood and the corn of Egypt. By His command He could make the air distill this unknown product and endow it with nutriment to satisfy their hunger during forty years. Thus they were taught that ordinary food nourishes not by any inherent necessity, and that when they were settled in Canaan the produce of their own cornfields would, equally with the manna, be the gift of God. Our Lord, tempted to employ His miraculous power to relieve His hunger, quoted these words. Satan suggested that if He were indeed the Son of God, He had power to turn stones into bread. But He replied that man's life depends not on bread alone, but on God who gives bread and renders it nutritious, whose power can support life without it, whose favor therefore is life, and obedience to whose word is the life of life. If bread is effectual for food by the Word of God alone, how foolish as well as sinful to violate that word in order to obtain that food! "Better starve than go to the devil for food." Our Lord placed Himself on our level. As man, He both suffered temptation and triumphed. He did not assert any special privilege, but as one of us He said, "It is written, Man"—all men, the race of mankind—"shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." That Word alone makes bread to nourish; and therefore the bread must be received as the gift of God, which can only really benefit when it is sought and received as such.

Other miracles besides that of the manna had reminded the Jews of the same truth. On two occasions Moses was supported during forty days without food; Elijah was thus preserved in the desert; ravens brought him meat beside the brook; and the widow's barrel of meal wasted not. These facts showed that the Word of God could preserve life in other ways than by natural processes, which are equally the product of His Word. That Word brought the great multitude of fish to the net of the disciples who had toiled for them all night in vain, and that Word multiplied the five small loaves to feed five thousand men. In the regular harvest no less than in the obvious miracle, the hand of God is at work. The comparatively small quantity of seed corn resulting in the produce which feeds the whole multitude of mankind is the miracle of the loaves on a larger scale. Those miracles were "but flashes of light from the heavenly regions to illuminate our darkness—concentrated lessons, strongly-marked diagrams, to teach our dull minds that our heavenly Father gives us our earthly bread" (Saphir). Because God works by means, such as sunshine and rain; and because He ordains that we should be fed in connection with our own efforts in ploughing and sowing, men are apt to dwell on these second causes and forget Himself. The seed grows by the action of light and heat, of sun and rain; but it is He who ordains these influences. "He left not Himself without witness, in that He did good, and gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness." So as regards our own exertions. Faculty of thought, invention, contrivance; power of will, resolution, perseverance; strength of arm, mechanical skill—all these come from Him, and therefore He is the Giver of all they produce. "Say not in your heart, My power and the strength of my hand has gotten me this wealth. But you shall remember the Lord your God—for it is He who gives you power to get wealth."

"One day I asked the children in our infant school, Who gives you the bread you get to your dinner? Almost every voice answered, 'My mother.' But who gave it to your mother? 'The baker.' And who gave it to the baker? 'The miller.' And who gave it to the miller. 'The farmer.' And who gave it to the farmer. 'The ground.' And only when I asked, Who gave it to the ground? did I get the answer, 'It was God'" (J. H. Wilson). How many children of a larger growth attribute their blessings to any second cause rather than to the gift of their Father! When the food has been produced we still need to say, "Give." The field may be golden with corn, but there may be no fit weather for harvesting it. The barn may be filled with grain which the mold may corrupt or the fire consume. Throughout the year and every day of it the beautiful prayer is appropriate, "Give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth, so as in due time we may enjoy them." And when thus preserved we need to say, Give; for it is by the Word of God alone that the grain can nourish. We might have no appetite to desire it, no power to digest it, no health to enjoy it. For all this we need to say, Father, Give!


There has been much discussion on the word rendered "daily." It occurs nowhere in Greek literature, and is found only in the Lord's Prayer. Some have interpreted it as referring to the future; bread being asked for tomorrow, or even all the days following. But this seems totally opposed to our Lord's teaching on the same occasion, "Be not therefore anxious for the morrow; for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof." The meaning is seasonable, bread suited to our need. "The idea of fitness for a purpose and of actually serving it are united in the closest manner. The 'daily' stands in the middle between the past and the future, and designates that which is just enough" (Tholuck).

Honor is here given to food as the appointed means of nourishment. How little they reverence God who, in professing to pay Him homage, regard any of His works as in themselves to be despised! How contrary to the teaching of the Bible are the cave of the hermit and the cell of the monk, and how inevitable is the revolt from such unnatural restraint! Unfallen man needed and was supplied with food in Paradise. It was not eating which caused his fall, but disobedience. Angels did not refuse to eat the food provided by Abraham and by Lot. Our Lord was not only sustained during His human life by the food of man, but shared it after His resurrection. Having on their way to Emmaus fed the souls of the two favored believers, He "sat at meat with them, and took bread, and blessed it, and broke, and gave it to them." Later in that evening of that first day of Resurrection, "He said to the assembled disciples, Have you here any meat? And they gave Him a piece of broiled fish and of an honeycomb. And He took it and ate before them." As a sanction to that fellowship in food which so tends to kindle sympathy, when He confirmed Peter in his apostleship by the charge, "Feed my sheep," He said, "Come and dine. Jesus then took bread, and gave them, and fish likewise."

Religion sanctifies common life. "Godliness is profitable unto all things." The body is not only the lodging place of the soul, but "the temple of the Holy Spirit." To supply it with food, to protect it from harm and dishonor—this is a religious duty, not so important as caring for the soul, but deriving its authority from the same source, and therefore not to be neglected. We glorify God not by ignoring the nature He gave, and which Christ shared, but by nourishing it as the clothing and instrument of the soul. We are to "glorify God in our body" as well as "in our spirit, which are His;" equally His, and therefore each, in its degree, to be cared for according to His purpose in regard to each.

Godliness was never intended to make a separation between our earthly and our spiritual life, but between both and sin; teaching us, not to distinguish things secular from things sacred, but to make all things sacred by faith and love; not to expect to secure happiness in heaven by giving ourselves pain on earth, as though the feast of eternity could be purchased by the fast of time, but, except where conscience intervenes, thankfully to use God's gifts for the "life that now is," as well as for "that which is to come." But while the necessities of the body are recognized, we are taught to be content with what is sufficient for our need, and not to desire what shall furnish our luxury. It is bread that we are taught to ask for. And though we may regard this term as comprehending whatever else we may need for the present life, yet it does suggest the simplest kind of provision.

Here then is a lesson of contentment, and a warning against extravagance. We are not to ask God for that which is merely to please the palate. What He gives we may use in moderation and gratitude, but we are not instructed to ask for more than daily bread, How often has undue pampering of appetite led Christians astray! "We had two common parents, Adam and Noah, and one failed by eating, and the other by drinking. These sins are natural to us. The throat is a slippery place, and had need be looked unto" (Manton). The apostle lamented the failures thus caused in the early Church—"For many walk, of whom I told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ, whose god is the belly." Some crave luxuries for ostentation. They must keep pace with society. They must not be outdone by their neighbors. Wholesome food, reasonable variety, moderate expenditure suited to their means—this is not enough. Viands are valued the more, the less they are seasonable; not for their suitableness, but for their rarity. Social communion cannot be enjoyed without a prodigal waste on one feast which may cripple the resources of the family for weeks to come, or may exceed the amount spent in bread for the hungry poor during a whole year. What a sarcasm on some of the feasts of professing Christians would be, as grace before meat, the prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread"!

The prayer simply for "daily bread" which forbids extravagant waste, may suggest the question how far it is consistent to destroy as food the grain bestowed, and turn it into that which in many cases destroys life, besides producing poverty, disease, vice, crime and misery. Mr. William Hoyle, author of Our National Resources, gives the following statistics—"The average annual amount spent on intoxicating drinks during the ten years 1870 to 1881 was £134,103,461. In the manufacture 80,000,000 bushels of grain have been destroyed each year, that is, 4,240,000,000 lbs. of food, or a total in twelve years of 50,880,000,000 lbs. This would supply the entire population with bread for four years and five months. The grain thus destroyed yearly would make 1,200,000,000 4 lb. loaves; requiring 750 bakeries producing 500 loaves each hour, and working ten hours daily during the whole year. To grow the grain to manufacture the liquor consumed yearly would take a cornfield of more than 2,000,000 acres; or it would cover the entire counties of Kent, Surrey, Middlesex, and Berkshire." Dr. Norman Kerr, in an address to the British Medical Association in August 1882, stated as the result of very careful investigation, that the drink thus obtained by the destruction of food was the cause annually of 40,500 deaths from personal intemperance-and of 79,500 others from disease, violence, accident or starvation consequent on the intemperance of others. Does not the prayer, "Give us suitable bread," seem incongruous with this misuse of so much of the bread already bestowed for daily sustenance?

Let not those who have only "daily bread" repine. The apostle, who knew "both to be full and to be hungry," said, "Having food and clothing, let us be therewith content." A crust gratefully received from God is a richer feast than the costliest banquet which He does not bless. "The bread God carves, though a lesser slice, has a heavenly excellence when taken with content. The love of God makes its relish sweet" (Watson). Better "a dinner of herbs," where such love is, "than a stalled ox" without it. God's crumb weighs more than the devil's loaf. "Godliness with contentment is great gain."


This word places us side by side with our fellow-men, and forbids us to pray selfishly. In asking bread for myself, I am taught to ask it for others. If I pray for my own interests merely, I do not pray scripturally, and therefore not acceptably. I cannot come to the throne of grace in the Lord's Name unless I come in the Lord's spirit. "After this manner pray, Give us." As in the opening word, "Our Father," we are reminded of our common brotherhood, so in this word "us" we are taught our common dependence on the one Father's bounty. It would sound very strangely if a family were gathered together, and one of the members prayed, "Give me this day my daily bread." And so we learn by this petition that the human race is one family, and that we must not isolate ourselves from our brethren by seeking good things for ourselves alone. We may learn a lesson from the ants. They store up food as a common stock, each for all. Suppose a few, stronger than the rest, appropriated the largest portion of the supply, so that, though there was ample provision for the daily sustenance of all, large numbers of ants in the same home perished with hunger; it could not be said that they perished from lack of food for the many, but from the selfishness of the few. Mankind are a community, and the universal Father provides abundantly for all. If one kind of food may fail, other kinds supply the lack. If there is dearth in one land, there are plentiful harvests elsewhere. There is always food enough sent by the Father for the great "us." Ought there to be destitution among any of His children?

During a recent war there was at one time an open-air enclosure where thousands of captured soldiers were confined within strong stockades, closely guarded. Within this barrier the prisoners were at liberty. Each day food was carried within the gates, just sufficient for them all. But there was no attempt at equable distribution. Thus the strong and selfish made a rush at the common store, taking more than their due share, while many of the sick and wounded obtained nothing. Morning by morning scores of corpses were carried out. Had those sharers of a common captivity all acted in the spirit of the word "us," none would have died from lack. Two hundred persons sail in a vessel with ample stores which are under the control of a few, who deal them out only to themselves. The rest pine away with hunger, and every day some lifeless bodies are dropped with funeral services into the deep. The ship's company assemble daily for prayers, and the captain leads their devotions with "Our Father, give us bread!" We are all sailing together over life's ocean, and God has provided ample stores. Are we then to bid all men share alike? Political Communism would soon produce universal need by destroying capital, discouraging industry, promoting indolence, rewarding vice. If all were equal in capacity, and equally intent on fulfilling each his part, the case might be different. Thus angels share together, no one of them having his own property, but each possessing all. Although this cannot yet be so on earth, every man should remember there are moral obligations he may not neglect, which bind him to care for others while seeking bread for himself. So the apostle taught, "Look not everyone on his own things, but every one also on the things of others."

Primitive believers did actually practice a community of goods. But this was never enjoined, and soon came to an end. It could not work in an imperfect society. It exposed to such temptations as destroyed Ananias and Sapphira, and would soon have pauperized the Christian society by making it the prey of hypocrisy. We afterwards read of both wealthy and poor saints. But the principle holds good, "The multitude of those who believed were of one heart and soul; and not one of them said that any of the things which he possessed was his own." It is still true that nothing we possess is absolutely our own, but a stewardship, and ours conditionally on keeping in mind that we are "every one members one of another." Worldly governments enforce the rights of property; the Christian Church teaches its duties too. Perhaps in supporting the State by defending the rights of property it has sometimes performed a superfluous work, while not sufficiently diligent in its own special function. Governments cannot impose laws of love. The terms are self-contradictory in the mouth of the magistrate. Human laws are precise, rigid, and are enforced. Love is free, and its promptings cannot be excited or limited by legislation. The kingdom of Christ is not of this world, and while it recognizes the rights of property, insists chiefly on the obligation of love to use it generously. "Whoever has the world's goods, and beholds his brother in need, and shuts up his compassion from him, how does the love of God abide in him?"

"The Church proclaims tacitly by her existence—she should have proclaimed openly by her voice—that property and rank are held upon this tenure; that they can stand by no other. Alas! she has not spoken out this truth clearly and strongly here or anywhere." The consequence of such failure in duty is lack of power. "She can scarcely make her voice heard against schemes for reducing all things to a common stock, for establishing a fellowship upon a law of mutual selfishness, because she has not believed that the polity of brethren confessing a common Father is a real one—has left people to fancy that it is only a fine dream, a cruel mockery, incapable of bringing any tangible blessings." "If we had understood that we were children of one Father, and were asking Him to bless all the parts of His family while we were seeking blessings for ourselves; that, in fact, we could not pray at all without praying for them, we should have found the answer in a new sense of fellowship between all classes" (Maurice). We are reminded of this community whenever we say, "Give us." Masters, kneeling with their servants, are thus admonished to "give to their servants that which is just and equal." Employers of labor are reminded that beyond the working of Political Economy there are the duties of brotherhood, and should be ashamed and afraid of accumulating fortunes while those who help to make them well-near starve, though receiving the "market price" of their toil. Landowners, kneeling with their tenants and acting out the spirit of this word, would not require more than the land can fairly yield, whatever the competition for the tenancy, and would not allow their brothers who plough the soil to live in hovels where they would be ashamed to stable their horses. Grinding competition in trade would cease. The "Song of the Shirt" would no longer syllable the inarticulate groaning from garret and cellar; nor would haggard children be employed in making match-boxes for twopence-halfpenny the gross. The intelligent recognition of this principle would influence international relations. The whole world would be regarded as the Almighty Father's storehouse, as well as the dwelling-place of His children. What He provides in one country would be considered the property of all, and no artificial restriction would be placed on commerce to prevent the free circulation of His gifts. Had this principle been recognized, there would never have been laws for the exclusive supposed benefit of a class, while the millions were starving within sight of plenteous harvests across a narrow strait, or an imaginary boundary line.

As in the next petition those who ask to be forgiven must themselves forgive, so in this we learn that those who ask God to give must themselves be willing to give. We stand in His presence together with the sick, the aged, the sorrowful, the hungry, and we say, "Give us!" We are one company. We plead for each other. And God hears our plea in giving bread enough and to spare. Only He does not divide it into portions for each, but leaves us to distribute it, conferring on those who have abundance the honor and privilege of acting as His commissariat. Can we intelligently and honestly say, "Give us," and then practically live as though we had only said, "Give me"? Are we not bound to help our brethren who, when we utter this word, may be regarded as kneeling with us? "Charge those who are rich in this present world" (and riches are comparative; he who has two loaves being rich in relation to him who has not a slice); charge the rich "that they do good, that they be rich in good works, ready to distribute, willing to communicate; laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life"—the life which is life indeed. God gives to His children more than they need for themselves, to exercise in them the grace of giving, and to open to them the opportunity of a special reward. He who gives wealth "is able to make all grace abound," including this special grace of giving; so that "having all sufficiency in all things, we may abound unto every good work—as it is written, He has scattered abroad—he has given to the poor, his righteousness abides forever." It is He who "supplies seed to the sower," giving what is more than enough for ourselves for the purpose of distributing it; and we should pray that "He would both supply bread for food," bread which we ourselves need, "and multiply our seed for sowing, and increase the fruits of our righteousness." "He who sows plentifully shall reap also plentifully." In receiving from God we are on a level with our needy brethren; but when we are enabled to relieve their wants, we are sharers with God Himself, the universal Giver.

And what can we give which we have not already received? "Of Your own have we given You, O Lord." We are His almoners; His hand to distribute the daily store. Our Lord illustrated such beneficence "He went about doing good;" and we are to remember His words, how He said, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." It is more blessed, for there is more conscious pleasure in giving; there is more profit, for it benefits the soul of the giver, while the bread may only feed the body of the receiver; what is secured by the giver is more lasting than the gift, because the benefit to the soul abides when the garment given is worn out, the bread eaten and the money spent; there is a richer reward from God, for though grateful receiving is acceptable to Him, yet special promises are recorded for those who generously bestow. Jesus regards the bread given to a poor disciple as given to Himself. A "cup of cold water given in His Name will not lose its reward," and He will say to those who with true love have ministered to others-" Inasmuch as you have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me." Thus the poor and the rich are mutually helpful. If the rich help the poor by material benefaction, the poor help the rich on a still higher scale in affording them the opportunity of increasing their spiritual wealth both here and hereafter, and of rendering special service to their Lord. This is the true community of bread.


1. Honesty—God's bread cannot become our own in any true sense when we obtain it by dishonest means. We do not in such a case really ask it from God, nor does He give it. It is a seizure by us, not a donation by Him. If we are providing for our needs by any species of fraud and exaction, or by trades which injure either the bodies or the souls of men, we may not consider that the bread we eat was given by our Father. We cannot ask a blessing on what is sure to entail a curse. "He who increases his estate by indirect means stuffs his pillow with thorns, and his head will lie very uneasy when he comes to die." Such wealth will prove "daggers of gold to stab us, ropes of silk to hang us. Though we tread the courts of the Lord and nail our ears to the pulpit; yet a false weight in our bag and a heavy hand will wipe off our title to 'our bread;' and our names too, if we repent not, out of the book of life" (Farindon).

2. Industry—Intelligent prayer has regard to the Divine methods. It is His Will that bread should be the reward of labor. Adam was placed in the garden not simply to enjoy its produce, but "to dress it and to keep it." Idleness is the paradise of fools alone. The curse pronounced when man sinned was not labor itself, but the now conditions attending it. Man would have been much more cursed had he been doomed to inactivity. "In the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread" has been the law of the Giver from the first. Satan goes where men stand idle for his most ready slaves. God's law, linking labor with bread, is a law of love. The Son of man honored humble toil for daily maintenance. He of whom it was said, "Is not this the carpenter?" did not eat the bread of idleness during that long abode at Nazareth. In praying for bread we pray for health and strength to earn it, that by industry it may become fairly ours. The most distinguished patriarchs, lawgivers, and prophets were trained in humble toil. The Bible abounds in admonitions to industry. "The hand of the diligent makes rich." "Be diligent to know the state of your flocks." "See a man diligent in his business, he shall stand before kings," whereas "drowsiness shall clothe a man with rags." Christians are instructed to "work with their own hands, that they may walk honestly and have lack of nothing." Prayer for bread linked with laziness is mockery. We only truly pray, "Give us bread," when we pray, "Your Will be done," and do it.

Those whose circumstances raise them above the necessity of labor are not thereby discharged from the obligation to do some useful work. King Lemuel's model woman "eats not the bread of idleness," though possessing fields and merchandise, with maidens to serve her. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians—"When we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat." He then "commands by the Lord Jesus" those who "walked disorderly, working not at all, but who were busy-bodies, with quietness to work and eat their own bread," as if no man by mere purchase could make it his own. If we would "eat our own bread," it must either be by manual toil in its production, or by rendering some equivalent service to the community. Of course children and infirm persons are exceptions; all others, however exalted in station, should, by some beneficial industry, earn their bread if they would regard it as their own. "Every man is to work for his food either directly or by commutation; for the gentleman cannot, at least worthily, obtain it otherwise than by redeeming it from the ploughman and the craftsman, by compensation of other cares and pains conducible to public good. Sloth is the argument of a mind wretchedly mean, which disposes a man to live gratis on the public stock as an insignificant cipher among men, as a burden of the earth, as a wen of any society, seeking nourishment from it, but yielding no benefit or ornament thereto. A noble heart will disdain to exist like a drone upon the honey gathered by others' labor, like a vermin to filch its food out of the public granary, or like a shark to prey on the lesser fry; but will one way or other earn his subsistence, for he who does not earn, can hardly own his bread" (Barrow).

Such industry is not opposed to piety, but is a part of it. Religion has too often been regarded as confined to mental exercises and acts of worship; and so the duties of common life have been regarded as a hindrance in the way to heaven. But when bread is sought from God, and strength for winning it is acknowledged as His gift and exercised according to His Will, then work becomes worship, and the most humble manual toil or the most engrossing mental labor is an acceptable sacrifice, being "sanctified by the word of God and by prayer." "Religion is not confined to the ear, nor is it a prisoner to so narrow a compass as to be shut up in the temple. If you will entertain her, she will come and dwell with you in your private houses and shops; she will walk with you in the streets and fields, and sit down with you at your meals. The husbandman, while he holds his plough, may chant forth a Hallelujah; those who work with their hands may sing the songs of Zion, and ease their labors and rouse up their spirits with this heavenly noise, as the mariners do when they draw up the anchor" (Jerome). Religion will sit with the king on his throne and with the judge on the bench. It will accompany the preacher as well in his study as in the pulpit, and the tradesman as well in his shop as in the church" (Farindon).


In Matthew we read this day; in Luke, for the day, or day by day. The meaning is the same. We are taught to ask needful sustenance for each day as it comes, and not be anxious to lay up a store for the future, or ask God to provide more than for the necessities of the present time. "Matthew touches the readiness, Luke touches the steadiness; Matthew the promptitude, Luke the patience of God's supply" (Vaughan). Our Lord warned His disciples against anxiety respecting earthly things. Their Father, from whom they sought daily bread, would provide what He knew to be best. They must not therefore make it their chief aim to secure the wealth which perishes. The life's chief treasure possesses the heart's chief affections. "You cannot serve God and mammon." Therefore we are to take no anxious thought respecting food or clothing. God, who gave life, will not fail to bestow the lesser gift of food to sustain it. Birds do not store up in barns, but our heavenly Father feeds them. Surely His children will not be less cared for. All our anxiety cannot add to our stature, nor prolong our life beyond its limit. And why be anxious about clothing? He who formed the body may be trusted for its dress. "If God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?" Today's wants, labors, sorrows, are enough for us to bear today; the morrow will bring its own needs and supplies. Therefore let us be content to ask from our Father "this day our daily bread."

Our Lord does not command us to neglect wise precautions. Instead of "Take no thought," the R. V. translates, "Be not therefore anxious for the morrow." The Bible never encourages indolence and improvidence. "Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways, and be wise—which provides her meat in the summer, and gathers her food in the harvest." "The husbandman waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it." In spring the distant autumn must be sown. The culture of youth lays the foundation for the work of manhood, and this for the support of age. The spendthrift must not plead our Lord's word as a palliative for self-indulgence; nor should religious enthusiasm close its eyes to reason and truth, and think to honor Christ's teaching by observance of the letter while violating the spirit. If we trust God, we shall accept His methods. But obedient industry and providence should be free from anxiety. Anxiety is useless. It is neither thoughtful contrivance nor practical diligence, but hinders both. We cannot think so clearly or work so effectually when the mind is perplexed with care, as when it enjoys the calm trustfulness of religious faith. The surgeon brings all his skill to the operation, but if the hand that holds the knife trembles, such anxiety may be perilous to the patient. Especially is such anxiety mischievous when it relates to tomorrow, for we cannot today do the morrow's work; and therefore care for the morrow, which cannot be practical, interferes with today's work, which demands all our energies. Such anxiety dishonors our Father. To Him all the future is known; whatever we shall need, and His own boundless store. The Israelites were taught by the manna to trust Him for tomorrow. If they stored it, it stank; they must depend on God for new supplies "day by day." Poverty brings its special trials, but it may help to make its subjects "rich in faith" by encouraging daily dependence on God. When food for the next day must come from fresh exertion through the continuance of daily strength, it is easier to feel the appropriateness of this prayer than when he who offers it has property securely invested, or a thriving business.

For the richest also this petition is appropriate. Their wealth may vanish like a cloud, "real property" retain only a nominal value, investments become worth no more than the paper on which they are inscribed, and the very prosperity of business allure to ruin. "Labor not to be rich—for riches certainly make themselves wings; they fly away as an eagle toward heaven." The wings seem to grow out of the wealth and bear it away unexpectedly. Such evolution is constantly going on. "Who is richer for a flock of wild fowls which pitches in a man's field tonight, but tomorrow they are gone?" The riches may fly away not only by their absolute loss, but by their ceasing to give any satisfaction. The care of keeping, the fear of losing, the envy of others, the contentions of rival claimants, may make the possessor wish that the wealth had actually flown away. And the health to enjoy it depends daily on God. A believer "thinks the provision as good in God's hands as his own; and therefore asks not so much store laid up as bread for today. If he has great wealth, he trusts no more in it than if he had nothing—and if he has bread for today and nothing for tomorrow, he trusts no less in God than if he had thousands" (Leighton).

The dependence of all alike on Providence is illustrated by the limited produce of the earth's harvests. Every summer there is never enough corn in store for a year's consumption. Were the harvests of one year to fail, there would be universal famine. Of what value would bank-notes and title-deeds and gold and silver be to the wealthiest if there were no corn in the barn? The whole human family may well unite in the prayer, "Father, this day!" "This day" reminds us of the uncertainty of life. To store up for many years implies that we expect to live many years. Tomorrow we may be beyond the need of earthly food. To the self-confident possessor of "much goods laid up for many years" the voice has often come, "You fool, this night your soul shall be required of you; then whose shall those things be?" We hold our tenancy at will; the lease is daily renewed, and may at any moment expire. We are not to pray for stores to lay up in an abode we may quit before morning. We thus find an emphatic warning against—


We ask bread, the simplest food, daily bread, what is suitable or needful and no more. We ask it for this day only, or day by day, enough for the present necessity without storing for the future. This reproves eagerness to amass wealth; the longing for more than is needful in respect both to quality and quantity, which is so often condemned as "covetousness;" the having more, the craving for some additional possessions or advantages; leading to rapacity, overreaching, avarice, hard-heartedness towards others. Our Lord classed "covetousness" with "adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, wickedness, deceit, pride, foolishness," as the evil things which "come from within and defile the man." When He was applied to respecting a disputed inheritance, He said, "Take heed and beware of covetousness; for a man's life consists not in the abundance of the things which he possesses." It is not the things which can enrich, nor the abundance of them; it is the soul itself which is the life; and this may be impoverished by amassing "things." Paul wrote to the Colossians, "Mortify your members which are upon the earth;" classing among such vices as "fornication and uncleanness" this one which be specially stigmatizes, "and covetousness, which is idolatry."

Many who are not greedy for dainties may be greedy for gold. They cannot be satisfied with what God gives; but are eager and anxious for more. This "love of money is a root of all kinds of evil; which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows." Such eagerness for more than "daily bread" renders the conscience dull in perceiving the boundary line of truth and justice, and leads to defective manufacture, adulterated stores, unfair advantage, misrepresentation, underpayment of service, indifference to the distress of others, refusal of imperative claims of benevolence. The covetous illustrate the pagan satire—"Money! honestly if you can, still, anyhow, money!" and what the Roman poet calls the "sacred hunger for gold." "Those who desire to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare, and many foolish and hurtful lusts; such as drown men in destruction and perdition." Achan rises before us clutching his wedge of gold; Ahab murder-stained haunts Naboth's vineyard; Demas, "gibbeted by Paul," swings to and fro with this inscription, "having loved the present world;" Judas fleeing from his still pursuing thirty pieces of silver—these and multitudes of similar victims of greed warn us not to crave more than "daily bread."

Especially sad is the sight of an old man still grasping if not increasing his store. The long habit of the mind grows stronger as the faculty and opportunities of enjoying the wealth become less. The shorter the tenure, the closer the clutch. The less use for the hoard, the stronger bolt on the door. The nearer the judgment-seat, the longer the account to render, and the apparently greater eagerness to heap up the condemnation on unfaithful stewards. The writer heard a famous preacher in Westminster Abbey relate how an old man near death was rubbing his hands together uneasily, when his son placed a banknote in them, and he was pacified. He could not rest unless grasping his wealth. It possessed him, rather than he it. Those who are ambitious to "die rich" should remember that "we brought nothing into the world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." We all die alike penniless. No, those who die with wealth beyond all reasonable requirement of survivors, die the poorest, for, as stewards, they have a heavier account to render to Him who entrusted it. Our real wealth is what we use wisely and give generously; beyond this, riches impoverish. "He who gives to the poor lends to the Lord." The deposit is safe, the interest sure. Was not Lazarus in his rags richer than Dives in his purple? An old epitaph quaintly records—"What I spent I had, what I kept I lost, what I gave I have." Philip Henry used to say—"He is no fool who parts with that which he cannot keep, when he is sure to be recompensed with that which he cannot lose."

The folly of making wealth the great aim of life has been exposed by moralists in all ages, even though they may not have followed their own counsels. Lord Bacon says—"Seek not proud wealth, but such as you can get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully, leave contentedly." A full table cannot secure a good appetite, nor a large bed sound sleep. "A great cage cannot always make a bird sing." Increase of estate brings increase of care. Abundance of "things" may be more a burden than a blessing. "One staff," says Leighton, "may help the traveler, whom a bundle of them will hinder."

"Extol not riches then, the toil of fools,
The wise man's hindrance, if not snare; more apt
To slacken Virtue, and abate her edge,
Than prompt her to do anything may merit praise."—Milton

A robe that not only covers the body but drags a gorgeous train behind, may be very troublesome to the possessor; and it is not every wearer who is skillful enough so to carry it that it shall not gather dirt and perhaps disease by its entangling folds, and cause an ignominious or dangerous fall. Things are seldom what they seem. "The learned head ducks to the golden fool," but despises him in his heart, and his own weakness too for "ducking." The glamor that surrounds the owner of gold vanishes with the gold and leaves him in the gloom.

"Ah, when the means are gone that buy this praise,
The breath is gone whereof this praise is made." —Shakespeare

The jeweled crown is prettier to look at than easy to wear. More gold may bring more greed, more prosperity more pride, more fame more folly, greater revenue heavier reckoning. If with larger purse comes less peace, and with more bread more burden, we need not be eager to obtain more than suitable supplies for our need. Property has its advantages in the supply of comforts and innocent enjoyments, and chiefly as a means of doing good; we may therefore value it when it comes to us in the way of Providence, but should not make the acquiring it our great aim in life, even as we are encouraged to pray not for what is superfluous, but only for what is needful. This has been assured to us, and the word of God should be to us more than an earthly treasure to secure us against need. "What the Christian has not in the cupboard he has in the promise" (Watson).

It is suitableness, not superabundance, that gives enjoyment. A dress that fits is more useful to the wearer than one which is too large, though more costly. A shoe that pinches the foot is not easier for all the gold lace put on it. Saul's armor was useless to David, who was far better equipped with his sling and his stone. Many who have climbed into great wealth have found their new surroundings so incongruous with their habits, that they have sighed for their "lowly roofed cottage again." He whose condition is not suited to his desires, because those desires are never satisfied, is poorer than he who is contented with what he has.

"God prohibits us from confusing wealth and welfare. To all He promises a sufficiency; but a sufficiency is something very different from the English 'competency.' The normal condition of Christian service is the wage of 'bread and water;' and whatever is beyond that is a gratuity of the Master in heaven…Those who are at rest in the center are 'rich towards God;' rich here, amid the toils and hardships of poverty—rich in the power of extracting, like the bee, honey from almost every flower, and of singing over their work—rich in that holy love which makes the wear and tear of household life seem, not like the convict's trample on the world's vast treadmill, but like an ascent on the luminous steps of duty up to the very gate of heaven—rich in the inward light of God's Spirit which dwells in the soul, and, passing through the eye as a prism, throws a sunny radiance of variegated beauty over the external scene. Of such as these is many a Christian laboring man, and many a sleepless Christian mother, and many a father of children whom the world accounts a poverty-stricken and hopeless struggler with an evil destiny" (E. White).

Those whose poverty brings hunger may be consoled by remembering that our Lord Himself lived many years on daily bread supplied day by day through manual toil, that He knew the pangs of hunger, and how the tempter takes advantage of bodily weakness and privation. Those whom "God has chosen rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom," need not envy those to whom He entrusts silver and gold. Every believer possesses more than all the wealth of which any Croesus ever boasted, because God is his, and all God has to give. "For all things are yours; whether the world, or things present or things to come; all are yours; and you are Christ's, and Christ is God's." The universe belongs to every child of His, not although, but because it is in the Father's keeping. From His infinite store He day by day selects and bestows on every child of His that which He knows to be most suitable. May we not as surely feel that we possess the whole when our Father gives us our portion day by day, as if we ourselves kept the key? Are not His choice and distribution likely to be more suited to our real welfare than if we selected for ourselves?

To possess God is to possess a treasure satisfying, enduring, infinite. No failure of earthly hopes can deprive a Christian of his inheritance. The writer was preaching on the sufficiency of God for a possession. A stranger in the congregation was overheard repeating to himself, "Forty thousand pounds." As he left the church he was again overheard saying in cheerful tones, "I'm glad I've lost it—I'll have God." "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation." "A little that a righteous man has is better than the riches of many wicked." If ever tempted to repine because some who are not the children of God "have more than heart could wish," he can say, "Nevertheless I am continually with You; You have held me by my right hand. You shall guide me by Your counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but You? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison with You. My heart and my flesh fails; but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion forever."


As we ask only for bread sufficient for the day, this prayer is obviously given us for daily use. In answer to the prayer of today I receive bread for today; tomorrow's supply must be sought tomorrow from the same Father in heaven. Ever-recurring need renders necessary ever-renewed petitions. Though the highest privilege of the creature is to hold communion with the Creator, it would often be neglected did not necessity prompt. This constantly links earth's little things with heaven. Our Father's bounty never fails, but He would have His children's faith and gratitude nourished. "The tree of promise needs shaking by the hand of prayer." The fruit tastes the sweeter and is more nutritious when sought and received from God. He does not limit the approaches of His children to great crises at distant intervals, but would hear their voice each day. Not as the high priest once a year entering within the veil; not as the worshipers at the annual festivals; not even as those who on each weekly Sabbath went up to the temple for worship, but day by day we are permitted to appear before Him. Thus graciously does our Father ordain that His children should never be long out of His company; that their need should be a spur to their devotion; that thus in coming to Him for the Father's bread they may receive much more in a Father's blessing.

It is a social prayer, and implies a company of suppliants. This at once suggests the family. They share the daily supply, and thus are taught to seek it together. Family prayer is not a mere puritan usage, the peculiarity of a party; it is founded in the nature of man, and is universal in its reasonableness and obligation. How fit, how beautiful, the daily worship of the gathered household; parents and children together looking up to heaven and saying, "Our Father, give us this day our daily bread"! How unnatural the opposite! Instead of any argument being needed in defense of family worship, argument is needed for the neglect of it. Public service in the church, however useful, should not interfere with this more ancient worship of the family. The early Christians met on the first day of the week to commemorate the Resurrection. As circumstances permitted, they might assemble in the church more frequently. But each family necessarily met every day to partake of food, and so they met for worship daily, asking and receiving that food from their Father. There is no such argument for daily service in the church, however profitable some may feel this to be, as there is for daily worship in the family; and so far as the former discourages the latter, its claims become questionable. The worship of the household precedes that of the congregation, and the priesthood of the Family has a more ancient title than that of the Church. Enforcing this truth, the late Dean Alford of Canterbury condemned the practice of the head of a household surrendering his position at family worship to a clergyman, who there is officially inferior, "and without any dispute the less is blessed of the better."

The pious practice of "grace before meat" is encouraged by this petition. If we ask for food each day, so when we receive it we should give thanks for it. This should not degenerate into a mere fashionable form, but, however brief, should be solemn and earnest. How are we "better than sheep and goats who nourish a blind life," if we do not acknowledge the Giver of our food? The beasts of the field unconsciously "seek their meat from God," and we show our superiority to them when with reverence, truth and gratitude we ask our Father for our daily bread. "Carnal men are like swine which devour the acorns, but look not up to the oak from where they drop." In this giving of thanks we have the emphatic example of our Lord when He exerted His miraculous power in multiplying the loaves, no less than when at Emmaus "He took bread and blessed it." His giving thanks for the bread He had created seems to have impressed the mind of John quite as much as the miracle. "Howbeit there came other boats from Tiberias near the place where they ate bread, after the Lord had given thanks." The place was specially signalized by the fact of this thanksgiving, this "grace before meat." If then the Lord Himself gave thanks for bread He had provided by His Divine power, how much more should we who are entirely dependent on Him for it!

Such prayer for bread is fraught with spiritual benefit. It teaches us humility. How preposterous for those to be proud who are daily petitioners for the very bread they eat! As the heathen king said to those who flattered him as a god, "I require sleep every night, I know I am not a god" (Saphir). We cannot claim as a right what we ask as a gift. Whatever as creatures we might have expected from the Creator has been forfeited by sin. It is only to mercy we may appeal. "By grace we stand" in regard to the body as well as to the soul. We may say with the patriarch, "I am not worthy of the least of all the mercies which You have shown to Your servant." Not worthy therefore of the plainest, scantiest fare, not worthy of our daily bread, for which we therefore humbly petition as suppliant children, saying, "Father, give!"

It encourages filial confidence in little things. Some Christians seem as if they could trust God for eternal life and not for daily bread. This prayer is a constant monitor, bidding them "cast all their care on Him who cares for them." Believingly to say "Give" is the cure of care. Were we left to our own exertions, or were forbidden to appeal to God except for spiritual blessings, we might yield to anxiety; but when we are encouraged to unburden our hearts to Him in little things as well as large, we may leave the caring to Him. So the apostle teaches—"In everything be without anxiety—but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God—and the peace of God which passes all understanding shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus." Do we rejoice that He gave His Son, and shall we not trust Him to give us bread? In addition to the plea that He is our Creator, we possess a covenant claim through Christ, by whom all things are ours. Grand as well as simple was that "grace before meat" of the poor woman, "Lord, I thank You for the porridge; I thank You for an appetite for the porridge; I thank you for a covenant-right to the porridge."

It prompts to daily gratitude. How small will be our tribute of praise if we render it only when we receive some extraordinary benefit! Our greatest mercies are the small but regular supplies for each day's small but essential requirements. What we distinctly ask, we are more likely consciously to receive from our Father's hand. A crust over which thanks are given and a blessing craved, becomes a richer meal than the costliest fare not received as a royal gift.

Daily obedience will be aided by daily petitions, gifts, and gratitude. The strength nourished by His daily bounty we shall feel bound to use in accordance with His will. With faculties each day invigorated by daily bread from His hand we shall pray, "Give, O Lord, to keep us this day without sin. O Lord, our heavenly Father, who have safely brought us to the beginning of this day, grant that this day we fall into no sin; but that all our doings may be ordered by Your governance, to do always that is righteous in Your sight."

Although this petition asks food for the body, yet it suggests that which is needed for the soul. Our Lord often spoke of the one as a type of the other. "I am the Bread of Life; he who comes to me shall never hunger, and he who believes on me shall never thirst." "The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." He compared eating bread with faith in Himself; for as merely crediting the existence and nutritive qualities of bread will not nourish the body unless the bread is eaten, so it is necessary that Christ Himself be spiritually received into the heart; His truth, His love, His Spirit, to quicken, strengthen, preserve the soul. "Truly, truly, I say to you, Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, you have not life in yourselves." "My meat is to do the Will of Him who sent me." "Labor not for the meat which perishes, but for that meat which endures to everlasting life." "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled."

In the ordinance of the Supper the Lord honored bread by using it as an emblem of His body; the body which once shared our infirmities, including hunger; but which is now glorified on the heavenly throne. How such a solemn association ought to lead us to honor food, not despising it as mean nor abusing it by excess! We are also taught that as bread nourishes by the reception of it, so He Himself maintains life in the soul in proportion as by faith He is received spiritually and dwells within us. Therefore when we offer this prayer in its primary sense, seeking what is needful for the bodily life, let us ask for the nourishment of the soul; daily instruction by the Truth, daily aid of the Spirit, daily grace for whatever need each day may bring. For past supplies will no more suffice for the soul than for the body. As we cannot live healthily today on yesterday's bread, and without a fresh supply must soon die, so our spiritual health begins to decline when it loses one day's nourishment; and death will come to the soul who trusts to religious experiences of a year ago, as surely as it would to the body if we substituted dreams of former feasts for present daily bread.

Father, throned in heaven above,
Might and Mercy, Light and Love!
Give to us, as Jesus said,
Day by day our daily bread.
Satisfy our daily need,
Soul and body daily feed,
Daily hear us when we pray,
Support, save us, day by day.
Give us daily faith to ask
Needful aid for daily task,
Daily guidance on our way,
Daily warning lest we stray;
Sympathy for daily grief,
Daily solace and relief,
Daily patience, meekness, zeal,
Hearts for others' woes to feel;
Daily help for daily cross,
Daily gain in seeming loss,
Daily strength for daily strife,
Daily grace until close of life. —Newman Hall