Cornelius Hanko is an emeritus minister in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Ques. 125. Which is the fourth petition?
Ans. “Give us this day our daily bread”; that is, be pleased to provide us with all things necessary for the body, that we may thereby acknowledge thee to be the only fountain of all good, and that neither our care nor industry, nor even thy gifts, can profit us without thy blessing; and therefore that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures, and place it alone in thee.
Heaven is Thy throne and the earth is Thy foot stool. Sovereign Lord art Thou over all the earth, the starry heavens, the angels in Thy heavenly mansion, and even over the devils that rage against Thee.
All things must, all things do, and all things will serve Thy purpose, and that without fail, even unto the day of the Lords return.
Thy Name is and will be eternally hallowed, Thy kingdom is coming and will come, Thy will is being done and shall be unto all eternity, for Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory forever and ever!
It is in that confidence that we pray to Thee: Heavenly Father, give us this day our daily bread.
We acknowledge Thee as our Creator, our Sustainer, our Provider, and our Lord.
Thou hast in the very short period of a mere six days created the heavens and the earth and all that they contain. Since that, for almost six thousand years, Thou hast carried out Thy counsel in the history of this present world, and hast by way of His suffering and death on Calvary exalted Thy dear Son Jesus Christ as Lord over all in the heavens, whose coming we expect as the time of His arrival draws ever closer. In the meantime, Thou causest the sun to rise in the morning, and dost carry it through the heavens to let it sink in triumphant splendor on the western horizon. Thou dost paint its rainbow colors in brilliant display through the heavens. Thou gatherest the clouds together and dost pour out their rain, every drop in Thy appointed place. The cattle on a thousand hills are Thine, even as Thou feedest them and carest for them day by day. The, lion goes out at night to seek its prey as Thou dost direct it. The lofty, towering mountains are held in their places by Thy Almighty hand. The lowly flower of the field tells Thy praises. For that thy Name is near Thy wondrous works declare!
Even the wicked, who refuse to recognize Thee, are still dependent upon Thee, employing Thy gifts to their own condemnation. But Thou in sovereign mercy art our Father, who carest for us in eternal compassion. Thou appointest our food and drink and all our sustenance in infinite wisdom, almighty power, and loving kindness. Thou withholdest no good thing from those who fear Thee. Thou dost hold us by Thy hand to guide us with Thy counsel, afterward to receive us into Thy glory.
Father, in complete dependence upon Thee we ask for bread.
In a sense, we ask for so little. Though our tables are laden with food, even with choice delicacies, such as salads and desserts, pies and cakes, we still ask only for bread. With outstretched hands we ask of Thee at every meal anew, “Lord, give us bread”.
Yet when we do so we ask for so very much. Bread represents the many necessities of life. We need food to sustain our bodies, but we also need so very much more. We need water to quench our thirst, pure air to breathe. We also need shelter, clothing to protect us from the heat and cold, from the rains of summer and the stormy blasts of winter. This earthly house of our tabernacle is very frail and needs constant care, medicines, and other means to relieve our pain and sufferings. We need doctors, hospitals, yea, and so very much more.
We need work for our hands and means to carry out the calling whereby Thou dost call us in this present time, such as transportation, tools, and many other things. We need so very much; the list continues to grow as we set our minds upon it.
Besides all that, we do not live as individuals on an island. We have our families, so that our homes are not merely places of refuge, but dwelling places of intimate fellowship and love. Each of us has a place in his family and must daily consider the needs of his dear ones. We are members of Thy church, having a place and calling among our fellow saints. We need the preaching of the Word, the sacraments, the communion of saints, the instruction of the covenant youth of the church in the fear of Thy name, particularly in the church and in our Christian schools. We have a responsibility to our fellow believers, especially in time of need; yea, we even have a responsibility to Lazarus, whom Thou hast brought with his rags and ugly sores at our doorstep. We ask for bread, so very little, and yet so very much!
As Thou dost impress upon us our deep dependence upon Thee, wilt Thou also teach us to rely on Thee, to wait for Thee, so that we learn, not only to pray for bread, but to add to that, “our daily bread”.
We need from Thee the grace to realize that we have here no abiding city. We tend always to make this life an end in itself, to seek our pleasures and our treasures here below, and to live for the moment, staring ourselves blind on the passing things of this world. We think, and will, and live as if we are staying here forever, so that at times Thou must forcefully make us aware of the realities of our lives, that we are pilgrims and strangers on the earth, only passing through on our way to our real, our eternal home. We must learn always anew that all that Thou sendest us in this vale of tears is to prepare us for our place in glory before Thy throne.
We have the example of Israel in the wilderness being supplied in that desert waste with manna from heaven, a new supply every day. We think of Elijah and the widow of Zarephath, who received a new supply of oil and of meal every day anew for two years and a half. We wonder whether we would be content, we with our abundance, having a diet like that. Yet we also realize that we could live without the least concern, for while thousands were dying of starvation in Israel and round about them, their bread was certain every day anew. They could live by the day, every day receiving from Thy almighty hand their daily bread. But are we as Thy children actually any different? With all our worrying and complaining, with all our wrestling and concern, we know in the depths of our souls that we need not, we should not worry, for Thou, Father, carest for us as a father, for his children. Thou who clothest the lily of the field and carest for the sparrow on the housetop, dost Thou not care much more for us, O we of little faith?
As we bow at Thy footstool, we pray that Thou wilt also teach us contentment, so that we may pray in sincerity and truth: Give us this day our daily bread.
Shamefacedly we admit that we often seem to know so very well what we need. We storm Thy throne with many requests, often as if our lives depended on the things we deem so important for our present existence. There are times in our lives when Thy hand weighs heavily upon us. To us it appears as if everything is all wrong, and will never be righted again. The night is so dark that we expect no new dawn; life will never be bright and pleasant again, as we complain: “Has God forgotten to be kind, will He show us His mercy nevermore?” But these thoughts are our infirmity, our lack of faith. We allow ourselves to be tossed to and fro on waves of doubt and fear, as angry billows rage and roar within us, threatening to swallow us up. Cause us to realize that all things without exception, “herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, meat and drink, health and sickness, riches and poverty, yea, all things come, not by chance, but by Thy fatherly hand.” (Heidelberg Cat., Lord’s Day 10) Moreover, that our Father will make whatever evils he sends upon me, in this valley of tears turn to my advantage; for he is able to do it, being Almighty God, and willing, being a faithful Father.” (Lord’s Day 9)
Agur had “this day” in mind when he prayed: “Give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with the food convenient for me: lest I be full, and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.” (Proverbs 30:8, 9) David was aware of this when he sang his “shepherd psalm”, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside still waters. He restoreth my soul.” May we, Father, also learn with the apostle Paul to live in true spiritual contentment, that we also may confess, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”
One more word we must learn. Teach Thou us also to say: Give.”
Our first reaction is that it hurts our pride to ask to be given something. We want to be independent, self-sufficient, so that we can care for our needs and the needs of our family without any outside help. O, how we hate to have to beg. How much rather we would boast of what our hands have accomplished, and even that we have saved up enough for our old age, and stowed away something that our children can appreciate after we are gone.
Then I think of the child who without any inhibitions comes running into the house after school or after play and immediately asks: “Mom, may I have something to eat? I am starved.” He makes no ceremony of it, he does not question mother’s love or willingness to provide for his needs, nor does he seek to have his needs supplied elsewhere. No, he does not rush into the neighbor’s house, thinking he might find something better there. He goes home to mother, casts himself upon her concern for him, and boldly asks to have all his needs supplied by mother.
What shall I render unto Thee, O Father, for all thy benefits Thou bestowest upon me? I will take up the cup of salvation, ever mindful that Thou art the overflowing Fountain of every good and perfect gift, bestowing all things upon us in the abundance of Thy mercy unto our salvation. Yea, more; I will call upon Thy Name, O Jehovah, making all my needs known in prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, with extended hands continually asking for more, even as in Thee we have our life and all our being. Thus:
My soul in silence waits for God.
My Savior He has proved:
He only is my Rock and Tower;
I never shall be moved.
Father, teach us to pray also this petition: “Give us this day our daily bread!”