Have you ever wondered why the Lord‘s Prayer speaks of giving us this day our “daily” bread? That’s kind of repetitive. Why didn’t Jesus say something more powerful? Like “give us this day our spiritual bread” or our “heavenly” bread—something more profound? Even Wonder Bread sounds more exciting than “daily” bread.
“Daily” is, by definition, ordinary. Things that happen daily are so unremarkable that we barely speak about them. We ask each other “what’s new?” not “what happens every day?” And with the ubiquity of the Lord’s Prayer—it’s the most frequently repeated prayer in worship and in home devotions—we may simply learn it by rote, never really taking the words that Jesus spoke to heart.
But I feel the words of Jesus are a feast! His imagery and language are rich enough to satisfy us for a lifetime. A phrase like “our daily bread” might at first seem to need a little salt (or butter) to make its flavor *pop*, yet there are subtleties that make this “bread” far from ordinary.
Now, I’m a pastor and one of the tradecrafts of pastoring is looking hard at language in preparation for sermons. Behind my desk sits a Greek dictionary or two, and I’ve found that when you peel back the onion skin of New Testament language, there are layers that make translation problems interesting.
The Biblical word which we know as “daily” is the Greek “epioúsios” and it appears only two places (Matthew 6:11 and Luke 11:3), where Jesus is instructing his disciples in this very prayer. “Epioúsios” means more than just daily. It connotes an appropriate time and an appropriate amount for a given situation. In a sense, we are asked to pray, “Lord let me have today just what I need, not too little and not more than enough.”
There is a sufficiency in the “daily bread,” then. As in “My grace is sufficient for you.” We are asking God to take our measure and give us the boon of personalized, individualized consideration. Bread, made by God’s hands, for us, alone. There is flavor and satisfaction in that all right!
There’s an Old Testament phrase which balances the New Testament prayer for our daily bread, by the way. Proverbs 30:8 says, “Give me neither poverty nor riches, but my daily bread” and here the word to be translated is Hebrew, not Greek. This word is “ḥōq,” something within bounds, prescribed by law, fit for purpose, convenient. But in essence we’re asking, “Lord may I be content with what you give me today.”
Jesus tells his disciples to ask for the right amount and to be content with the right amount of “daily bread.” He spreads the perfect feast before us using only two words and it is fulfilling.
Pastor Jason Duley