August 5th, 2010 16:32 EST
Daily Bread: The Lord's Prayer
Give us this day our daily bread. Matt. 6:11.
When Jesus taught the Lord`s Prayer, He certainly was aware of the many needs of His people, which He summed up in one word - Bread. Why bread? Because:
a) it symbolizes life-giving food which satisfies hunger and keeps body and soul together.
b) the need for bread, in different forms (rice, in many Asian countries and roti/chappati in Indian homes), is felt by all sections of humankind - man and woman, adult and child, strong and weak, healthy and ill, rich and poor.
c) bread is the product of human labor and also the reward for it.
d) bread is within the reach of the common man.
e) grain that is harvested is crushed to make flour for bread. The metaphor has profound meaning, which Jesus hopes we will grasp. Unless we transform ourselves from selfish to selfless people, like the grain which submits itself to change, we cannot be His disciples, He implies.
Rebuking Satan, the Tempter, Jesus says: One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matt.4:4. So, bread in its literal meaning, is not the complete answer to our needs. There is a figurative explanation that we should understand.
Having established bread as the common denominator for all people, the Lord couches in it a world of meaning, which is born of His injunction to obey God`s word. And what is God`s word ? LOVE, which finds expression in empathy, compassion, fellowship and brotherhood. Jesus is saying that our supplication for bread goes well beyond food. Bread also stands for peace, that we all need; for courage, that we lack; for humility, that makes us agreeable and acceptable to others; for honesty, that makes our transactions transparent; for patience, to interact with people who are difficult; for prudence, in using authority fairly; for cheerfulness, to drive the blues away; for selflessness, that dislodges selfishness; for willingness to listen, with head and heart; for discretion in speech and wisdom in using time and talents, given to us. Give us this day our daily bread, is not just an ordinary supplication, but also a figurative prayer for all our spiritual and temporal needs; even for needs as mundane as paying our bills on time, meeting our financial commitments and coping with the unreasonable boss at the work place. Many of us mistakenly confine our understanding of bread to food, whereas the Lord has bigger plans for us.
Jesus places special importance on forgiveness because He chooses to add a conditional dimension to His Prayer. Literally, He separates forgiveness from the list of needs, to give it the importance it merits. Expect forgiveness from God, He promises, in the same way we forgive those who offend us. The condition places on us the onus of forgiving even those who offend us grievously. The Parable (Matt. 18: 23-35) of the unforgiving servant ( who refuses to forgive his fellow servant, although he receives full waiver of his debt to the King), is a frightening prospect. In bread and forgiveness, Jesus compresses a lot of big and small needs, that are both relevant and crucial to a joyous life.
We are reminded of the ballad, The Deck of Cards. The singer concludes with words that tug at our heart strings - to the soldier, The Deck of Cards is not only a Bible, but also an Almanac and a Prayer Book. Likewise, the Lord`s Prayer is not only praise and thanksgiving to the Father, but also a complete prayer of supplication. Other prayers, written by men, are worthy imitations, but the original taught by the Master, the Son of Man, is beyond compare.
May we be delivered from evil of our own making, when we choose to ignore the Lord`s Prayer!