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By Sigrid Fowler
While praying the Lord’s Prayer, do we just skim, “Give us this day our daily bread”? It’s such an ordinary need, why waste a thought on it? That’s been my position, I have to admit. However, the petition warrants more than a second look. First, I realized a few days ago that when Jesus stands at the door knocking (Rev 3: 20), what he’s offering to do is come in and eat: “Look, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with this person.” When Jesus tells us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we can be sure the reference to foodis weighty though the need is basic.
Start with this question: What does Jesus mean, “I will come in and eat with this person”? Apparently, the offer is linked to something else he said: “If a man or woman loves me, that one will keep my word and will be loved by my Father and we will come in and make our home” (John 14: 23). That slightly awkward translation (it’s not literal) is just an effort not to leave out women, which of course Jesus didn’tintend to do. The point is that he promises to come and eat with those who love him. I don’t need to add that these promises beg some questions. Eating? What are we eating? What is the food? An interesting matter!
One temptation Jesus endured after his long wilderness fast came in the form of a challenge to turn the stones to bread to prove he was the Son of God (Matt 4: 2-11; Luke 4: 1-13). He rejected the temptation, citing Scripture: “It is written, humans shall not live by bread alone” (Luke 4: 4; Deut 8: 3). Jesus knew the rest of the verse though he didn’t say it. This is the quote from Moses: “He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that humans do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.” To do that is to live spiritually, and I think when Jesus told us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” he was talking about spiritual as well as physical provision. In other words, we have to feast on the spiritual resources we have—God’s written word the Bible, the words we receive from God in prayer, the words of sermons and godly counsel. All these are spiritual food. A friend once saidto me, “If I don’t pray and read the Bible for a while, it feels like dieting.” How true. We have to look after ourselves—spiritually, as well as physically.
Something else Jesus said about eating was so shocking people couldn’t stand it. Many stopped listening to him, stopped following him as he taught. “After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him. So Jesus said to the twelve, ‘Do you want to go away as well’?” (John 6: 66-67). It was at this point that Peter answered: “Lord to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life” (John 6: 68). But all that came after the shocking statementthat made people leave. This is what Jesus said: “Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is truth drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him” (John 6: 53-56).
This strange statement becomes clearer when we remember the last meal Jesus had with his disciples, where he said: “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22: 19b). Matthew also records the moment: “And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them saying: ‘Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt 26: 27-28). No doubt, the reality of all this is spiritually perceived rather thanmentally digested and explained. This kind of nourishment is spiritual, not physical, but I can attest to the power of it and the human need for the living food we are invited to share. When Jesus told us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” I think he was encouraging us to pray for the church as well as ask for the physical nourishment we need every day. It is in the company of other believers that we share the Eucharist and go away thankful. Though I can’t give you a reference, I’ve heard that John Calvin had Communion every day.