“’Twas in another lifetime, one of toil and blood
When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud
I came in from the wilderness, a creature void of form
Come in, she said, I’ll give you shelter from the storm”
— Bob Dylan
The last few days have been an emotional roller coaster. I know I’m not alone when I admit that I have felt depleted and exhausted by the hatred we’ve seen so close to home in recent days. I woke up yesterday morning feeling like that “creature void of form” that we all fear becoming as we choke down the endless stream of headlines and opinions we are faced with every day.
As we make our way through the Lord’s Prayer, we find ourselves this week learning to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Asking for provision. In our current cultural climate, it’s easy to become woeful and downcast. We are all longing for something substantial to sustain us. We need something to cling to as we struggle on a muddy, uphill climb.
This longing for provision, this ache for our spiritual hunger and physical needs to be fulfilled, is a long-running theme in the story of the people of God. In the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve experienced complete unity and provision. Everything was right and righteous before the fall. Then we see them in Genesis 3. They are dispirited and afraid but the very first thing God does for them is clothe them and send them in a direction that will allow them to work the land.
Time and time again in the Old Testament, we see stories of God’s provision for his people. He gives pillars of cloud and fire to aid weary wanderers (Exodus 13:21) and bread from heaven when they are starving in the desert (Exodus 16). He provides a son to a woman longing to conceive (1 Samuel 1) and he provides bread and water to Elijah at one of his darkest hours (1 Kings 19:5-7).
As we read through the story of the God of Israel, we are conditioned to believe that he will come through every time. His provision is all but guaranteed in every awe-inducing story. Even in the darkest periods of their history, the people of Israel had God’s promises to cling to. They would be provided for. They would be seen and heard. They would witness justice. They would be made whole.
This idea is expressed so beautifully by the prophet Isaiah:
You have been a refuge for the poor,
a refuge for the needy in their distress,
a shelter from the storm,
and a shade from the heat.
For the breath of the ruthless
is like a storm driving against a wall
and like the heat of the desert.
You silence the uproar of foreigners;
as heat is reduced by the shadow of a cloud,
so the song of the ruthless is stilled.
On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
— Isaiah 25:4-8 NIV
This passage bleeds of good news. Our world will be set aright by a mighty and just savior. It’s something to rejoice in! The language of provision in this passage is so powerful. Physical and spiritual blessings are poured out together as one enlivened and unified promise. All of creation leans toward this prophesy and springs forth new life with every tiny spark of its fulfillment.
Now let’s fast forward from Isaiah to the life of Jesus. All throughout the gospels, we see that breaking bread was a vital aspect of his ministry. He ate with everyone from shady tax collectors (Mark 2) to Pharisees (Luke 7). He ate in small homes with close friends (Luke 24) and on hillsides with huge crowds of people (Mathew 14 & 15). Jesus knew we had been promised a feast, and he took every opportunity to turn our eyes toward its fulfillment. Eventually, in his very last meal among friends, he would embody the promise of a feast and then carry it out by physically being poured out for us in death before his resurrection. We see in all of this that Christ is always affixing himself to our greatest needs so that he can be our greatest fulfillment.
When the disciples ask Jesus how to pray, one thing he tells them to ask of the Father is: “Give us this day our daily bread (Matthew 6:11).” When we pray this line of the prayer, we are enveloped into the long arc of humanity’s hunger. We are recalling every meal that Jesus ever shared with another person. We are recalling every Old Testament miracle. We are recalling every acknowledgment of the goodness and splendor of our God. And it’s not just the past; we are calling forth glimpses of new creation. Every prisoner set free, every child’s belly full of food, every tear wiped away, every trace of hatred and death eradicated.
When we pray for daily bread, we pray for the feast of the Lord to come. We receive that promise of shelter from the storm, justice for the oppressed, joy for the downtrodden, and peace for the restless. When we pray for daily bread, we pray for humanity to be restored and sustained by a great God. As we pray for restoration and sustenance, God is daily giving us his Spirit to uphold us and propel us forward (1 Corinthians 2). The Holy Spirit is the roaring fire stoked in the hearth as the feast is prepared. The Spirit provides and invites, comforts and cures, mystifies and purifies. The Kingdom of Heaven lies at the crux of body and spirit. So day by day, we are called by the Spirit into that unification. Day by day, as we pray for bread, we are emboldened by the Spirit of God not only to receive, but to give. When we pray for provision, it’s not just “my daily bread, but “our daily bread.” We are praying, “God, let me help set the table!”
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest (Matthew 11:28). In this series, we are learning to come to him. As we do, he shows us how to pray. How to find rest. May our daily bread from the Father be a kind shelter from a dark storm. May our daily prayers for provision help us recall God’s marvelous light that illuminates even the darkest places. And as we are filled with the power of the Spirit, may our community of faith daily bring about a foretaste of the feast to come.