Why would we ask God for things we already have? I can go into the kitchen and get clean and delicious water from my reverse osmosis tap. My pantry and refrigerator are filled with delicious food. Hanging in my walk-in closet, which also happens to be my office, are plenty of clothes. I have a house with indoor plumbing, a small storage shed out back, a Honda Odyssey and Civic, a laptop with adequate software to do my job, books to read, and even healthcare in the case of illness. EMS and firefighters are close by. The Manheim Police keep us safe. The United States military defends our land. Why would I ask God for these things? I already have them! Why would you ask God for similar things when you likely have them too. Are Christians like the guy who asks his co-worker for a pencil when one is already behind his ear?
Maybe it would help to come at this from a slightly different angle. Christians realize that everything they have is from the Lord. John the Baptist was right, “A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven” (Jn. 3:27). Every good gift is indeed from our Father above (James 1:17). When we as Christians take a sip of water from our kitchen tap, we ought to realize every molecule that quenches our thirst is given to us by our heavenly Father. He is actively providing for us.
But, Christians are also tempted daily to think that their hard work alone has brought them necessities and luxuries. It can begin to feel like necessities and luxuries are just the way things are instead of the way God has chosen to bless us. We are tempted to forget, brothers and sisters, that though we work quite hard for what we have, God is the one giving. Apart from His grace, we have nothing but eternal perdition. Eternal perdition is the only thing we’ve truly earned. The rest is a gift from God. A breath is from God. A swallow is from God. A heartbeat is from God. Every drink of water, bite of food, night of sleep, and piece of clothing is from God. All of it is God actively caring for us.
So why pray for what we already have? Well, besides the fact that necessities like water, food, and clothing can run out or wear out and that we are not guaranteed necessities and luxuries tomorrow, for we are not guaranteed tomorrow, and though we may currently have what we need, we pray for what we need because it compels us to admit our weakness, needs, reliance, and to go to God for everything, even necessities. Prayer compels us to depend on God to meet our physical needs, which He is already doing as He sustains our lives, which we also need Him to continue to do. Prayer also excites gratitude to God for receiving what we need. As we take a spoonful of oatmeal we can pray, “Bless this oatmeal, Lord, and provide the nourishment my body needs. You are kind to give me food today, and I’m grateful. Cause me to trust in you for everything.” Sure we’re already eating it or at least about to, but God is actively giving it for our benefit. That ought to excite gratitude.
Heidelberg 125 asks, “What is the fourth petition?” It answers:
“Give us this day our daily bread.” That is: Provide us with all our bodily needs so that we may acknowledge that You are the only fountain of all good, and that our care and labor and also Your gifts cannot do us any good without Your blessing. Grant, therefore, that we may withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it only in You.
Now, that can be tricky for westerners to pray. The grocery store gives us our food. We have enough in our pantries and refrigerators already. We may pray the line, but perhaps sometimes our prayer is less than urgent and sincere. That may be because we are not believing the doctrine of God’s providence as we ought.
Praying “Give us this day our daily bread” is acknowledging that God alone is the gushing spring of all good. In Acts 14, Paul healed a disabled man. The people esteemed Paul and Barnabas as gods and wanted to offer sacrifices to them. Quite disturbed, Paul and Barnabas rebuked the crowds and said, “Yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). Paul recognized that God alone satisfies hearts with food and gladness, and God alone sends rain and makes crops grow. Praying this one line is forcing us – is there a better word than forcing – to acknowledge that God alone meets our needs. We are not self-sufficient, we are God-dependent. And that includes everyone on planet earth whether they acknowledge God or not.
We also pray “Give us this day our daily bread” because, without the blessing of God upon our lives, necessities and luxuries will only help condemn us by leading us deeper into pride and delusional self-reliance. God’s gifts do us much good when we ask for and receive His blessing. Therefore, we need true faith to be truly blessed by God (HC 21). All things work for our good, including necessities and luxuries, for those who love God. That’s important.
This little line of the Lord’s Prayer is important because it helps us place our trust in God and not the cow. I’m referring to milk. I love milk. Chocolate milk is evidence that God loves us and wants us to be happy. Be grateful for the cow, but even more, be grateful for God who created the cow and gives us milk through the cow. Don’t trust the cow, trust God. We need to ask our loving heavenly Father to help us trust the grocery store, doctors, insurance, and the like less and to trust Him alone, for He is our God and the Giver of everything good.
Be intentionally slow and considerate when you pray this little line to ensure that you are focused on the goodness of your God. Be comforted that when you ask God for food and other necessities, He gives because He loves. Every sip, every bite, every dry day under a roof is evidence that God loves you and is caring for you.
Quotes from the Heidelberg Catechism are taken from Zacharias Ursinus & Jonathan Shirk, The Heidelberg Catechism (Manheim: Small Town Theologian, 2021).
Scripture quotations are from the ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. May not copy or download more than 500 consecutive verses of the ESV Bible or more than one half of any book of the ESV Bible.