Jesus' prayer, part four

Give us this day our daily bread,And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us

Give us this day our daily bread. In some places in the world "daily bread" is something sought after and hard-won. Even in the United States, there are children who go to bed without enough food to eat. Yet for others, this prayer seems like something to say more than something to mean. With a refrigerator and freezer stocked full of food, or bulk buying at places like Sam's Club and Costco, we give little thought to going hungry or lacking in daily bread.

But Jesus told us to pray for this. And many of the Jews of His day would have recognized the necessity. Their history was filled with stories of want and need -- the wilderness wanderings where they lived on manna and had to collect it daily except on the Sabbath. Or during the times of the Judges when men like Gideon threshed wheat in secret for fear of his enemies, who were known to trash their grain fields and rob them of their daily sustenance.

When life is hard and daily bread isn't guaranteed, aren't we more likely to ask for it? And yet Jesus didn't put a condition on this prayer. He said to pray, "Give us this day our daily bread" no matter the circumstances. Perhaps it was to remind us that God is the source of our food, both physical and spiritual, and if we want to eat with Him and He with us, both to nourish our bodies and our souls, we need to come to Him and ask Him for it.

But when we come seeking, we also need to come with the right attitude. Jesus' next words were, "And forgive us our sins (some versions say debts), as we forgive those who sin against us." We can't come to God with bitter hearts and expect Him to listen, unless we are coming to confess the cause of our bitterness.

If we are angry with God for something that has happened in our lives, it is perfectly fine to tell Him how we feel, to express our pain to Him, even our anger that we aim at Him. (He's big enough to take it.) But we also must recognize that staying bitter at anyone, even God, is hurting us and hurting those who love us, including Jesus.

It's like a child that is mad at a parent for taking away a privilege for misbehavior and then that same child coming to ask for something but isn't willing to admit they were wrong and broke the parent's rule or trust. We can't expect God to give to us if we are unwilling to seek Him with a repentant and pure heart. A forgiving heart.

That forgiveness extends beyond being forgiven by God. It means extending forgiveness to others who wound us. Sometimes that's a very hard thing to do, depending on the depth of the wound. But we are asking God to forgive us as we in turn forgive those who wrong us. It's not just a good principle to live by for our own spiritual and mental health's sake. It is a way of love lived out through our prayers.

Jesus was training his disciples to love like He loves. To humble themselves to ask God for something so basic as daily bread. And to humble themselves even further by asking God to forgive their sins. And then to take it one step more, he assumes that forgiveness will include them giving up their grudges and forgiving those who hurt them.

If you stop and think about these simple sentences, they are far from simple. They take courage and humility and a realization that we need God. We can't do this thing called life and relationships on our own. And we can't even guarantee we will have a next meal, except by God's grace.

It is by His grace that we live and move and even have the ability to love. And learning to pray the way Jesus taught us to, helps us to see that in greater perspective.