Halfway into Matthew’s rendering of the Lord’s Prayer Jesus provides the most temporal of all the requests: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Bread stands for food, the kind of physical sustenance a man survives on, provided he doesn’t have celiac disease. You’d think that the Great Physician would have taken that into account. Probably He did. Bread is good, gluten and all, though some don’t have the guts to enjoy it.
We are to ask God to provide us with food, with bodily nourishment. Fasting is appropriate, see verses 16-18, but all fasting all the time leads to no life in which to fast.
The food we pray for is “daily,” bread, a “for today” bread, and we ask for it “today.” Without electric refrigerators, added preservatives, and sufficient shelf-space, quotidian bread makes sense for a 1st century petition. But even more so it reminds us that our dependence on God should be fresh. Daily as in right out of the oven is something to want, not necessarily a sign of want.
It is easy to think that we don’t need to pray this part of the prayer because we have weeks’ worth of food in the house, or to run the other direction and think that we must put ourselves in a position to only have daily food. Apathy and taking food for granted is one problem, false guilt and ascetic legalism is another.
The point is that God gives food. He must make the sun shine and the rain fall and the seed sprout. He must make yeast rise in the loaf and hold delivery trucks down on the road. He also must make cows masticate grass into milk for us to churn into butter for our bread. No stage in the process happens apart from Him holding the world together. Praying for our daily bread is a way to stay dependent and thankful.