Give us this day our daily bread. (Matthew 6:11)
This, of course, is from the prayer Jesus taught his disciples and in the “Sermon on the Mount” (which I call the “Sermon of Heaven on Earth”). In Luke’s Gospel, where the disciples ask Jesus, “Teach us to pray,” it reads, “Give us day by day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3).
The Greek word for “daily” is only found in these two places. Origen thought it might have been a termed coined by Matthew and Luke to translate the words of Jesus, which were probably Aramaic.
This word is epiousios and likely comes from epiousa, which concerns time and what is to come. Epiousa is found only five times in the New Testament, all in the book of Acts, where four times it refers to the following day and once to the following night (see Acts 7:26, 16:11, 20:15, 21:18, 23:11). There is another word used for “daily” that refers to the day that is already present. It is the word ephemeros, from which we get our English word “ephemeral,” a word that is about what is fleeting. It is used in James 2:15 — but not here in the Lord’s Prayer.
“Daily bread,” then, is about the bread of the day to come. But which day would that be? To answer that, consider the nature of the Lord’s Prayer and of the sermon in which it is found. It is about the kingdom of God, or as it is rendered in Matthew, the kingdom of heaven. At the end of Matthew 4, we see Jesus announcing the good news that the kingdom of God has come. Then in chapters 5-7, we see him preaching the Sermon, which is, from beginning to end, all about the kingdom of God.
Likewise, the prayer Jesus gave them to pray is about the kingdom of God. Immediately before the bit about “daily bread,” the petition is, “Your kingdom, come; Your will, be done on earth as it is in heaven.” And then the request for the bread of the coming day. It is an eschatological request — that is, concerning the “last things,” when everything in God’s plan has been fulfilled and the world has been set right. In other words, the day to come is about the fullness of God’s kingdom age.
So, this is not a prayer that God would give us today the bread that is for today but, rather, give us today that bread that is about that day: Feed us today with the bread of the age to come, the day when all is fulfilled. For the good news announcement is that the kingdom of God has already begun, with Jesus as God’s Anointed King, and will be fully realized on the day King Jesus comes again.
The bread of that day is, in a word, supernatural provision. It may show up in unexpected ways, ways we cannot explain. After all, Jesus knows how to turn water to wine and multiply bread and fish for the multitudes. Shortly after teaching the Lord’s Prayer, and still preaching the Sermon, he said,
Therefore do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?” For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow. (Matthew 6:31-34)Many people seek hard after their provision, and in ways that have no regard for the kingdom of God — ways that often dishonor his kingdom. But if we are seeking the kingdom of God and his way of living in the world, all of our daily needs will be taken care of. There will be no need to worry about tomorrow, for God will always take care of us with the supernatural provision of his kingdom.
The way I pray this, then, is “Give us this day the bread of that day.”