The Lord’s Prayer – Fourth Petition

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11

      The only thing better than the aroma of fresh, home-baked bread wafting through the house is to be able to sink your teeth into a lightly buttered, two-inch slice. Give me deep-dish pizza, hotdogs wrapped in a biscuit, biscuits and gravy, or soup in a bread bowl and I’m in heaven. Bread is my weakness. So it’s easy for me to pray the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer.

With the petition for daily bread, this is the second time we get the message that this is a community prayer. The disciples had requested of Jesus, “Teach us how to pray.” So he teaches them the prayer as if they are praying it together. “Our Father” and “Give us” indicate I’m not praying just for myself. This doesn’t mean we can’t pray it individually, but when we do pray it in solitude, we might consider that all people need bread/food on a daily basis.

Secondly, a community prayer assumes we are gathering with others as body with a unified purpose. There’s strength in numbers. We can do more together than the sum of our individual efforts. We also support, comfort, and encourage each other as part of a group called and committed to carrying on Jesus’ work in the world.

To ask for bread is to ask for the basic necessities of life. This doesn’t mean we won’t have to exert some effort in order to acquire these things. St. Paul tells those who are busybodies and not working, “If any would not work, neither should he eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Yet this is not a blanket directive for all persons. There are many who are unable to work.

At the other end of the spectrum, for those who imagine they have no one to thank but themselves for the efforts of their hard work, another passage is helpful. Deut. 8:17-18 says, “Do not say to yourself, ‘My ability and the might of my own hand have gotten me this wealth.’ But remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to get wealth…” If God gives health, intellect, and opportunity – then “to those who have been given much, much is expected.”

So what does this petition sound like if it’s translated directly from Aramaic? You can already guess from previous posts that it’s going to sound different. That’s because Aramaic is like Hebrew and Arabic. The words are organized and defined by a poetic system that allows for different levels of meaning of each word.

It’s amazing how few people understand the variability of the languages from which the Bible arose. Anyone who refers to an English translation of it and says, “This is the will of God!”or “God said it. That settles it!” only show their lack of understanding. Look at the ways three people have translated Jesus’ words, spoken in Aramaic and translated directly into modern English:

Hawvlân lachma d’sûnkanân jaomâna.

Give us wisdom (understanding, assistance) for our daily need,

Animate the earth within us: we then feel the Wisdom underneath supporting all.

Give us day by day to partake of Thy holy Bread, and the fruit of the living Vine. 

     In the second translation, earth is a reference to the clay from which we are made, not the ground we are standing on. “Animate my body or muscles to do the things I need to do to provide for myself and my family.” When I’m productive, I feel good about myself.

     The third translation from Aramaic reminds me of Holy Communion. Another level of understanding of the references to the body (Bread) and blood (fruit of the Vine) of Christ are his actions and his life. I have received the gift of his actions and life. I consume them so they become part of me and I in turn become like Him and offer those same actions to others, becoming Christ to them.

Many verses in the Bible point to the purpose of my work as more than just helping myself. If I don’t want to be like Cain in Genesis 4, I am my brother’s keeper. When I pray for my daily bread, I am also praying for bread for my hungry neighbor. If I have been given the gift of being able to work, then I am also the answer to my neighbor’s prayer when he or she prays the fourth petition of the Lord’s Prayer.

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