04 Apr Give Us This Day Meaning | The Lord’s Prayer
Up to this point in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus has been laying a foundation—one that establishes our relationship to God and his creation. When we recite the beginning of the prayer, we are thus engaging in an act of grounding, reminding ourselves that at the core of our existence we remain rooted in Christ.1
With the foundation complete, Jesus moves on to what many of us think is the business of prayer: asking for things. But as we mentioned in Chapter 2, prayer isn’t about asking for special favors. In fact, it isn’t even about “asking” at all—since, as Jesus says, God already knows what we need before we ask him.2 So what is prayer about? The simplest answer is that it is about gathering and release.
When we think about gathering and Christ, the first image that comes to mind is probably the shepherd. Many of us see Jesus as the “Good Shepherd”3 gathering his lost flock back within the fold of his love. This image is popular because Jesus often used sheep and shepherds as metaphors when he taught. He described those who deliver the gospel of Christ as lambs among wolves,4 and those without Christ’s guidance as sheep without a shepherd.5 He also warned us of embracing false teachers who come in the guise of innocent sheep but have sinister hidden agendas.6
What we don’t usually think about when contemplating gathering is the story of the prodigal son. We talked earlier about how this parable reveals the will of God as a matter of choice. But when we turn our attention to the son, and view the story through his eyes, the parable reveals a different lesson—which is the wonderful thing about parables: like crystals, they reflect new light (insight) as we turn them.
When the young man seeks his inheritance from his father, he doesn’t plead for it. Instead, he speaks with authority: “Father, give me my share of the inheritance.”7 We often overlook that fact. But it is an important one. Because it shows that the son is claiming ownership over something that he believes is rightfully his.
The Lord’s Prayer & Power of Faith
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus also speaks with “authority”,8 and says that when we speak in such a way, our Father will dutifully respond. In fact, he claims that God will grant us anything:9 that the dead will rise,10 and mountains move at our command, if we but have the faith of a mustard–seed11 and command it in his name.
This teaching has caused a lot of confusion over the years. Some Christians have taken it at face value and, because of that, acted irresponsibly—such as recklessly barring medical treatment to loved ones (believing that they could heal them through faith alone). Others have disregarded the whole moving mountains thing as just Jesus getting a little carried away with his metaphors. But if we reflect on the teaching a little longer, the true Word begins to emerge.
Let’s begin by recalling that Jesus was never an attention seeker,12 nor attributed any authority to himself as an individual,13 which is the likely reason we find no mention of Jesus in historical records, but receive his story via an oral tradition until it reached the pens of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We should also recall that during prayer the name we seek is “wholeness,” which when fulfilled erases the mountains that divide the kingdom of heaven and allow us to rise to a new life in Christ—a life wherein we stop asking for things and begin living.14
Because God’s kingdom is already granted15 to us by birthright, Jesus (like the prodigal son) has no reason to plead with the Father or beat around the bush. With authority, he declares: Give us this day… because he knows that he is gathering to himself (and us all) an inheritance already ours.16 By joining Jesus in this declaration, we are proclaiming our faith and confidence in the will of Father being fulfilled right now, this very day. Unfortunately, as we grow older, the day is something that increasingly slips through our fingers. Not so with the child.
Being Present in the Living Hour
We talked previously about how a child’s sense of wonder is one of the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Another key children possess is the ability to act spontaneously and immerse themselves in the living hour—a key that we adults often bury in our pockets while grinding our teeth over the past, and wringing our hands over the future. This is why as children our hours seem to stretch on for days, while as adults our days feel compressed into seconds. When Jesus says that we must enter the kingdom as a child would,17 he is talking about more than possessing humility before the face of God. He is calling us to immediacy and attention to the moment at hand.18
Consider the story in the Book of Mark where Jesus tells the apostles that when staying at someone’s house they should remain there until they leave.19 Reading Jesus’s admonition literally, we think: Well, how could the disciples do anything else? How could they leave a house while still being there?
But on deeper reflection, we realize that we often do leave places before we’ve actually left them. We begin thinking about future appointments; errands we have to run; work that needs to be done. We chew over past mistakes, or that perfect come–back line we should have said but couldn’t think of at the time. All the while forgetting that every day has trouble enough of its own;20 that being anxious over yesterday’s or tomorrow’s troubles does nothing but block our entrance to the living hour,21 this unique yet eternal moment in time that offers limitless opportunities for realizing the kingdom.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus teaches his disciples the importance of staying in the present, while serving the God of the living, not the dead.22 Like the apostles, we too are called to remain eternally watchful23 for a Holy Spirit that announces neither past nor future intentions,24 as it works to make its presence known. But unlike those apostles who, on the road to Emmaus, could not recognize the Christ at hand, because their eyes were blinded by the past,25 we must seek him out in the hearts, souls, and minds of each person we meet—be they enemy or stranger, family or friend, sinner or saint.
Read Chapter 7: Our Daily Bread Meaning (Gathering Our Inheritance)
- By the seed which was sown on the good ground is meant the receivers who hear the message and understand it, yielding a return, sometimes one hundred, sometimes sixty, sometimes thirty fold. – Matthew 13:23 [↩]
- When praying, do not repeat the same words over and over again, as is done by the Gentiles, who think that by using many words they will obtain a hearing. 8 Do not imitate them; for God, your Father, knows what you need before you ask him. – Matthew 6:7-8 [↩]
- I am the good shepherd; and I know my sheep, and my sheep know me. – John 10:14 [↩]
- Now, go. Remember, I am sending you out as my messengers like lambs among wolves. – Luke 10:3 [↩]
- On getting out of the boat, Jesus saw a great crowd, and his heart was moved at the sight of them, because they were ‘like sheep without a shepherd’. – Mark 6:34 [↩]
- Beware of false teachers: those who come to you in the guise of sheep, but at heart they are ravenous wolves. – Matthew 7:15 [↩]
- A man had two sons; 12 And the younger of them said to his father: ‘Father, give me my share of the inheritance.’ So the father divided the property between them. – Luke 15:11-12 [↩]
- On the next Sabbath, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, for he taught them like one who had authority, and not like the teachers of the law. – Mark 1:21-22 [↩]
- Whatever you ask for in your prayers will, if you have faith, be granted you.” Matthew 21:22 [↩]
- Even now, I know that God will grant you whatever you ask him.” 23 “Your brother shall rise to life,” said Jesus. – John 11:23 [↩]
- “For, I tell you, if your faith were only like a mustard-seed, you could say to this mountain ‘Move from this place to that!’ and it would be moved; and nothing would be impossible to you. – Matthew 17:20 [↩]
- Jesus, after sternly warning him, immediately sent him away, and said to him: 44 “Be careful not to say anything to anyone. Mark 1:43-44 [↩]
- Jesus said: “My teaching is not my own; it is his who sent me. 17 If anyone has the will to do God’s will, they will find out whether my teaching is from God, or whether I speak on my own authority. 18 Those who speak on their own authority seek honor for themselves; but those who seeks the honor of him that sent them are sincere, and there is nothing false in them. John 7:16–18 [↩]
- You, in the same way, are sorry now; but I shall see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will rob you of your joy. – John 16:22 [↩]
- Have faith that whatever you ask for in prayer is already granted you, and you will find that it will be. – Mark 11:24 [↩]
- Everything that the Father has is mine; that is why I said that he takes of what is mine, and will tell it to you. – John 16:15 [↩]
- “I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven at all. Matthew 18:3 [↩]
- At that time Jesus began to proclaim: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 [↩]
- “Whenever you go to stay at a house,” he said, “remain there till you leave that place. Mark 6:10 [↩]
- Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own anxieties. Every day has trouble enough of its own.” – Matthew 6:34 [↩]
- “My time,” answered Jesus, “is not come yet, but your time is always here. – John 7:6 [↩]
- As to the resurrection of the dead, have you not read these words of God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of dead men, but of living.” – Matthew 22:31-32 [↩]
- Happy are those servants whom, on his return, the master will find watching. – Luke 12:37 [↩]
- The wind blows where it wills, and you can hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes, or where it goes; it is the same with everyone that owes his birth to the spirit.” – John 3:8 [↩]
- It happened that very day that two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 Talking together, as they went, about all that had just taken place. 15 While they were talking about these things and discussing them, Jesus himself came up and went on their way with them; 16 But their eyes were blinded so that they could not recognize him. Luke 24:13–16 [↩]