So this community that looks to God for creation, provision and direction asks for “daily bread.” Matthew’s version says “give us this day our daily bread” (6:11); Luke’s says, “give us each day our daily bread” (11:3). Said slightly different ways, the emphasis is the same: provision enough for now. This is Exodus 16: God sending enough manna each day for the Israelites to survive, day by day, in the wilderness. The Israelites, freshly freed from Egypt, fear death in the dessert and whine about the wilderness, complaining that, at least as slaves, they had food.
So the Lord commits to raining bread from heaven for the Israelites to eat – but the text is clear: this is a test from the Lord to see if they will follow the Lord’s Instruction (Exodus 16:4). They are not to save any bread for the next day except on the Sabbath, when the Lord will send enough for two days. Each person is allowed one “omer” (Exodus 16:16) and can collect as much for their families. Whenever the Israelites didn’t listen and hoarded more for the next day, it stank and became infested with worms (Exodus 16:20). It melted away in the sun; more appeared the next morning. The Lord provides for them so that they would know that God is God and that God is the one who brought them out of slavery. This lasted for 40 years (Exodus 16:35) and the Lord called them to remember when they were provided for in the wilderness.
One of the morals of the story might be, then, that prolonged dependence on the Lord frees one from slavery – the slavery of hard labor, the slavery of idolary, or the slavery to fear and anxiety about what you will eat or wear. “Is not the life more than food or the body more than clothing?” (Luke 12:23). When we pray for daily bread, we are committing to ongoing relationship, to coming back the next day and trusting God for provision again. We are laying down our strivings to trust in ourselves. It’s certainly not easy to do this – I think the most often-repeated refrain in Scripture – “Do not fear” – is such for a reason. But when we do, when we truly rely on our Father daily, we will be able to say with the Israelites: “When you have your fill of bread, you will know that I am God” (Exodus 16:12).
And what is this bread? To state this obvious, Jesus affirms physical needs. He knows what it’s like to be human, and as such, the perpetual need for food. Jesus knows that we need bread for life (in both senses of the phrases). But on another level, the imagery of the Lord’s Supper has Jesus’ own body being the Bread broken for us. So Jesus is encouraging His community of followers to pray for the Bread of Life on a daily basis. We who call God Father need Jesus every day – no one person or community will ever get so “spiritual” that they can run without Christ. In fact, if the Sermon on the Mount with the Lord’s Prayer at its heart is on some level a teaching on true spirituality, then daily dependence on the Lord is crucial to it. The family that names God Father needs the Triune God for provision, sustenance and direction every single day.