April 19, 2023
As we continue to meditate on prayer in all of its facets during the count down to the National Day of Prayer on Thursday, May 4, 2023, I found myself reflecting on the first lines from the Lord's Prayer:
Matthew 6: 9-11 Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread.
I want to stop there, because it is a line we often cruise right through -
"Give us THIS day our DAILY bread."
It is a simple phrase, and yet, loaded with layers of meaning. At first blush, it can be thought of as the original "no green bananas" idiom. Are you familiar with it?
It has been said, that you can guess the age of the man ahead of you in the grocery line, by looking at the color of the bananas he is buying. For, there is the old cliche that goes, "I'm at the age where I do not buy green bananas anymore." The meaning is, of course, "I might be dead before they are ripe enough to eat."
And the related advice, that anybody buying only one or two bananas at a time, is probably getting the senior discount. While this derives primarily from the idea, that some people no longer have a need for a lifetime warranty, it is also a call to all of us to live more in the present - to live more day-to-day.
In the context of the Lord's Prayer, if you are praying for your daily bread, the implication is, that you should be back tomorrow, again asking for your daily bread. It is not so much, that we should only be asking for a few slices of bread, as it is, that we should be in daily communion with our God, our provider, our friend. Richard Wagner points out,
"The emphasis is on daily bread, not a storehouse of food for the winter. Living one day at a time is not a concept that is natural for many of us these days. For, the modern age seems to dictate the necessity of securing a nest egg through retirement planning, investments, and a 401(K). Society says that you need to live a generation at a time, not one day at a time."
But Richard Wagner also points out,
"In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus is not telling us to be reckless and live our lives only for the moment. (His prodigal son parable in Luke 15 makes it clear that squandering is a dead-end road.) Instead, this prayer should be understood to teach, that living a life of trust becomes a delicate balance: being wise and generous with today's resources, while fully relying on God to provide for tomorrow."
Matthew 6: 26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
Just outside the door to my office is a small non-descript table. It was gift from a dear friend, Irene. She had asked my wife and I to visit her one last time. She had pancreatic cancer and was returning to her home country of Wales, to spend her final weeks in the care of her only sister. While Matthew 6: 6 instructs us to "enter into thy closet," when we pray, my wife used that little table, as a daily prayer table for almost a decade after Irene's passing. Paul Simon once wrote a song, entitled, The Boxer. It has a verse that reads,
In the clearing stands a boxer and a fighter by his trade And he carries a reminder of ev'ry glove that laid him down, or cut him till he cried
I am reminded that we all carry reminders of our past battles and struggles; and they are not all visible physical scars. Our friend, Irene, had some of those, that took the better part of a lifetime to finally reach an age, where she could finally laugh about them. During World War II, she was a young girl, when the Germans bombed London, where she was living at the time. Some of her scars manifested themselves as recurring nightmares, but others were just life-long habits.
One of the things we take so for granted, that was hard to come by, at that time in her life, was bread. Bread was hard to get, and fresh bread seemed next to non-existent. She said she ate so much stale bread, that as a young girl, she came to think that that is the way normal bread should taste. So much so, that even a half a century later, she really did not like the taste and texture of fresh bread. When she came to visit, we laughed, because I had to make an effort to get old bread, or leave it out on the counter to "age it to perfection."
Or maybe, just maybe, it was her subconscious way of remembering how God kept her safe, and provided for her daily needs to sustain her life, during a very dark time all those years ago!
An old collection of praise music paraphrases Luke 12: 27 this way,
If God cares for them in such marvelous ways, how much more, how much more, how much more will he care for me and supply ev'ry need ev'ry day?
Amen, Your Brother in Christ, Warren Please also feel free to comment on this DeacoNote, or share a related story or thought of your own, in the comments section below. Warren J. Ayer, Jr. Chairperson, Board of Deacons, United Church of Colchester