Friday 23 March


7 And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. 8 Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

9 “This, then, is how you should pray:

“‘Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
10 your kingdom come,
your will be done,
on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us today our daily bread.
12 And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

MATTHEW 6:7-13

This is the occasion on which Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray (in Luke 11:1-4 they specifically ask him to do so). Jesus teaches his disciples, and therefore us too, that we are to address God as ‘our Father’, not ‘my father’ or ‘his father’. God is God of all, and when we pray we are partaking at a greater table of prayer, making our petitions as part of a spiritual community yet all the while engaging with God on a personal and individual level.

Yet, we are told to keep our relationship with God private, not to make a big show of it and to keep our prayer simple. Jesus’ giving of the prayer is immediately followed by instruction on fasting, which brings into focus the elements of prayer that relate to the basic needs of life. Our ‘daily bread’ is the ability to go to the shops and buy enough food to feed ourselves, not lavishly but sufficiently. We also tend to extend the phrase to mean other basic necessities of life, such as clothes, warmth and shelter.

However, in first-century Palestine, ‘bread’ did not mean money or even food; it meant bread. Adam eats bread after being cast out of paradise (Genesis 3:19), and over time bread became not only the basic subsistence food but also the food kept in the house of God to signify the presence of the Lord (Exodus 25:30). Only the priests were allowed to eat it and it was kept fresh, but on one occasion David and his men ate the bread of the presence because there was no alternative (1 Samuel 21:1-6). Jesus refers to this incident when he and his disciples are caught eating heads of wheat on the Sabbath (Luke 6:1-5). The principle is one of satisfying need when resources are available, and the Lord’s Prayer includes a petition that such resources may be available.

At the heart of the Lord’s Prayer is the request for daily bread, and that implies daily prayer. Each day we need food; and as we ask, our Lord provides.

Praise be to you, O God, who hears prayer and gives us the daily resources to live. Amen