ŇGive us this day our daily bread.Ó Matthew 6:11

 

The Coherence.

Hitherto we have handled the petitions that concern GodŐs glory; now we come to the petitions that concern ourselves, as the word ÔusŐ doth plainly shew, in these three which follow. And they depend upon the former as an explication of the manner of our obedience; for there we asked grace to do GodŐs will, and here we pray for GodŐs blessings and mercies wherein we may express our obedience, for we do GodŐs will when we depend upon His providence for the blessings of this life; when we rely upon His mercy for the pardon of our sins; and trust in His powerful strength against temptation and deliverance from evil. Now then, to come particularly to this fourth petition; having in the former, craved grace to do GodŐs will in our particular callings, here we pray for such sufficiency of all temporal blessings whereby we may glorify God therein.

 

In the handling of this petition, six points are to be considered:

              1. What we ask: Bread.

              2. What bread we ask: Daily bread.

              3. Whose bread? Ours.

              4. For what time? This day.

              5. To whom? To us.

              6. Whence we would have it; by gift from God: Give us.

 

1. For the first: The thing we ask is bread. But what is meant by bread is not agreed upon.

 

(1) Some expound it spiritually as ChristŐs body and blood, the food of the soul in Word and sacraments. But the unfitness of this exposition we shall see by the weakness of their reasons alleged for it:

 

(i) First, they say, it is not meet that in so heavenly a prayer, we should ask so base a thing as material bread of our heavenly Father. Answer: If God commands us to ask Him bread, and to depend upon Him for it, we must not judge basely of it. Now in this chapter, God commands us to depend upon Him for food to eat, yea, (1 Pet. 5:7), we must cast all our cares upon Him. And JacobŐs practice in praying for bread to eat (Gen. 28:20), and Agur praying for a competency in outward things (Prov. 30:8), declare plainly the lawfulness thereof.

 

(ii) Secondly, they say, we must first seek GodŐs kingdom and His righteousness, and then all these things shall be cast upon us (Matt. 6:33). Answer: Distrustful and distracting care is there only forbidden, but a moderate care is there allowed; and therefore prayer for them is undoubtedly lawful.

 

(2) The second opinion touching bread is of the papists, to wit, that here we ask not only all necessary sustenance for the body, but much more all spiritual food, namely, the blessed sacrament, which is Christ the bread of life. But neither is this so fit, for:

 

(i) First, we prayed for spiritual things directly in the second petition.

 

(ii) Secondly, sacramental bread cannot here be meant, because it was not ordained when Christ taught His disciples this prayer.

 

(iii) Thirdly, their exposition is against their own practice; for if by bread were meant Christ in the sacrament, then the people should be fed therewith every day, which they bar them from.

 

(3) The third opinion is that by bread is meant corporeal food and blessings, necessary to temporal life only. And this I take to be the truth for these reasons, which also make against the former expositions:

 

(i) First, St Luke, the best interpreter of our Saviour Christ, expounds the words, of bread that serves for the day; that is, for every day (Luke 11:3), and therefore it must needs be bodily; for spiritual food once truly received, serves not for a day but for ever (John 4:14).

 

(ii) Secondly, this is a perfect platform of prayer, and therefore must contain petition for temporal blessings, else it were not perfect. Now we cannot comprehend our requests for temporal blessings under any other petition but this only, and therefore Christ here propoundeth them.

 

Now, properly, bread imports that sustenance made of grain which is fit and convenient for manŐs bodily nourishment, such as Melchizedek brought out to Abraham and his company, with wine, for their refreshing (Gen. 14:18). And such is meant in Scripture where bread is opposed to wine and water. But more generally it is taken for all kinds of food whatsoever whereby life is preserved; in which sense goatŐs milk is called bread (Prov. 27:27); and the fruit of trees (Jer. 11:19); and all things that pass to and fro in traffick (Prov. 31:14). Now in this place it must be taken in a general sense, not only for bread, but for all other necessary food, and for raiment also, with health, peace, liberty, and all other things that are meet and needful for the good outward estate of man, of family, or commonwealth.

 

The uses.

1 Use. In that Christ bids us to pray for bread, and not for dainties; hereby He would teach us to beware of covetousness, the common sin of our nature, whereby we are discontent with our estate, and murmur with the Israelites, if we have no more but manna. But we must strive against this corruption, and say with David, Lord, incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not  unto covetousness (Psa. 119:36).

 

2 Use. Secondly, we must also hereby learn to practice sobriety and moderation in diet, apparel, and all other things appertaining to this life, using them so as we may be the fitter for our callings, and the service of God, and so bettered thereby and not made worse.

 

3 Use. Thirdly, this must teach us contentment with that place and state of life, and measure of wealth which God gives us; for we must ask bread only, that is, things necessary; and therefore if God gives us things necessary, we must be therewith content, and our corrupt mind must not be judge herein, but what God bestows upon our sober use of lawful means within our calling, that must we judge to be our portion. If we have food and raiment, let us therewith be content (1 Tim. 6:8). That was PaulŐs practice, I can be abased and I can abound; everywhere in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, to abound and to have want (Phil. 4:12). The Israelites in the wilderness (Num. 11:31,33) were not content with manna, but would needs have flesh to eat, and God gave them their desire; but whilst the flesh was in their mouths, His wrath fell upon them. Therefore let us lust after no more than God gives upon our sober use of lawful means, lest in seeking more, we draw GodŐs curse upon us. But, alas, few are content with their estate, the yeoman will be like the gentleman in attire and diet; and the gentleman like the nobleman; and hence comes usury, oppression, injustice and much ungodliness; hence it comes that GodŐs judgment in dearth is increased upon the poor, because men make no conscience of the means, so they may benefit and enrich themselves, and get aloft. But beware of GodŐs curse with thine advancement; unless God change thine estate, rest contented with that which is present, and be thankful for it; for better is a little with the fear of God, than great treasure and trouble therewith (Prov. 15:16). Now what trouble is like the wrath of God? Therefore be content with that which God sendeth in the use of lawful means.

 

4 Use. Fourthly, must we ask of God for every bit of bread we eat? Then away with all chance and fortune, and let us learn to acknowledge GodŐs providence in all things.

 

5 Use. Fifthly, must GodŐs children ask of God their daily food, and receive it as a gift of mercy from the hands of their Father? Then away with merit by manŐs works; for if bread be of mercy, life everlasting cannot be of merit on manŐs part.

 

6 Use. Lastly, this petition ministreth unto us a notable ground of contentment against distrustful care; for that which Christ bids us ask, God undoubtedly will give, because it is according to His will; and therefore the child of God may assure himself of things sufficient for this life, in the sober use of lawful means; and look, if temporal blessings fail, for a good supply of spiritual graces.

 

Here, a question may be asked, seeing we ask of God but bread only, that is, things necessary for this life, whether may we use the creatures of God for our delight? Answer: We may use the outward blessings of God for our honest delight (Eccl. 5:18), Behold what I have seen good, that it is comely to eat, and drink, and to take pleasure in all his labour wherein man travaileth under the sun. Yet three caveats must be remembered lest we abuse our liberty in this delight: (1) We must see God to give us not only things necessary, but for delight; (2) In our delight and pleasure, we must so moderate our affections that they be not taken up with these earthly things, nor hereby withdrawn or hindered from things heavenly and spiritual; (3) Our principal joy must be in spiritual food, even in Christ crucified, and in our true communion with Him in His body and blood; all our delight must stoop to this, and out of Christ we must count nothing joyous.

 

 

2. What bread? Daily bread. The word in the original signifieth bread put to our substances day by day; that is such bread as serves to preserve health and life from day to day. This Agur calls bread or food convenient for him (Prov. 30:8).

 

The Use.

In the second point we learn two things:

 

1 Use. First, that it is lawful to ask temporal blessings at the hands of God, for He is our merciful Father, and bids us so to do; which serveth to confirm the former exposition of this article.

 

2 Use. Secondly, that we ought to have a moderate care to preserve our bodily life and health, in the diligent use of all lawful means; for what we pray for, we must endeavour to do. The sixth commandment saith, Thou shalt not kill; wherein the Lord enjoineth us by all good means to preserve our own and our neighbourŐs life. And this we must do for two causes, especially: first, that we may do all the good we can to the church, commonwealth and family whereof we are members; secondly, that we may have a sufficient time to prepare ourselves for heaven; for death will come, and the day of judgment; and after death, there is no wisdom nor counsel, work, nor invention (Eccl. 9:10). Therefore now must we prepare ourselves for God, that we may be ready to receive Him at His coming; and he that is prepared for the Lord hath lived well and long enough, but without this, our life is spent in vain.

 

 

3. Whose bread do we pray for? Our own, not other menŐs. But how doth bread, or any other temporal blessings become ours? Answer: First, we have true right thereto before God; secondly, when we have lawful possession thereof before men. Our right before God is needful, for we lost all in Adam, and have recovery of our right in the creatures only in Christ Jesus, when by faith we become His members (1 Cor. 3:22), All things are yours, and ye are ChristŐs. And yet for all this, the child of God may not use all things as his own, though he have right thereto in Christ, unless by GodŐs providence he have also lawful right thereto, or possession thereof before men, as by lawful gift, purchase, labour or such like. Indeed right in Christ is the chiefest title, but yet right before men is also necessary; for Christian liberty doth not abolish good orders in civil estates, but establish them rather. Christ is no enemy to Caesar, and therefore the Scripture enjoins every man to eat his own bread (2 Thess. 3:12); that is, such whereto he hath right in Christ by faith, and also enjoyeth by GodŐs providence in some honest means allowed of men; for by good orders established among men, we are put into possession of those things whereto we have right in Christ.

 

The Use.

1 Use. Here we learn to receive our bread from God, or any other temporal blessing we enjoy as a fruit of ChristŐs passion; and indeed Christ crucified is the foundation of every good gift and blessing of God. As for infidels and wicked men who possess and use many temporal blessings, it must be granted that they have the right thereto before men; but yet having no part in Christ crucified, they want the true foundation, and so are no better than usurpers before God, for which one day they must be called to reckoning. If this point were learned, men should shew more conscience in getting, and more reverence and thankfulness in using GodŐs temporal blessings than usually they do. There would be less riot and excess in diet and attire, and less abuse of all GodŐs creatures; for the meditation of this price of our restitution would restrain us from dishonouring God in any of His blessings.

 

2 Use. This petition for our own bread teacheth us that everyone should have a lawful calling, and therein so employ himself that he may eat his own bread (2 Thess 3:12). No man ought to live out of a lawful calling, nor yet idly therein; the master must banish idleness out of his family, and the magistrate out of the commonwealth. Vagrant persons ought not to be tolerated, for such eat not their own bread.

 

3 Use. Here is condemned all fraud, injustice and cruelty in the getting of temporal blessings, for we pray for our own bread; but that which is so gotten is not our own, but others. Neither will the gamesters gain, nor that which is got by lottery, stand with this petition; for this is not to labour the thing that good is, as the apostle requireth (Eph. 4:28); neither are they sanctified means of getting.

 

Question: If this bread be our own, what need we to ask it? Answer: We ask it for good causes though it be our own; for in bread there be two things: the substance of bread, and the blessing of God therein, which in Scripture is called the staff of bread (Isa. 3:1), which is that virtue and power therein whereby it nourisheth; for herein it fareth with bread as it does with an old man: take away his staff, and he cannot stand but falleth; so take away GodŐs blessing from bread, and it becomes unprofitable, and nourisheth not. Now because we may have the substance of bread, and yet want the blessing upon it; we may have our garners full, and yet be poor. We may eat and not be satisfied (Mic. 6:14); fill our bellies, and yet be hungry; therefore we pray to God for bread that so we may have not only the substance, but the blessing of God therewithal; for which cause princes must as well make this petition as the poorest beggars.

 

 

4. For what time do we ask bread? Not for a month or a year, but for this day, or as Luke hath it, according to the day (Luke 11:3), that is, meet and convenient for this present day.

 

The Use.

In this circumstance of time, we are taught:

 

1 Use. First, to bewail our distrustfulness in GodŐs providence for temporal blessings, as food, raiment etc.

 

2 Use. Secondly, to acknowledge GodŐs particular providence upon us from day to day, whereon we must depend and cast ourselves continually for all things needful, though we see no reason thereof. Thus did Abraham, when he was about to sacrifice his son; for when Isaac asked, Where is the sacrifice? Abraham answered, My son, God will provide (Gen. 22:8); and so He did (v.13), whereupon Abraham in memory of this singular work of GodŐs providence, called the name of that place Jehovah-Jireh, God will provide (v.14). A most worthy precedent for every man in the way of obedience, to depend upon GodŐs providence for all things needful, endeavouring to see His disposing hand in all things that fall out good or bad.

 

3 Use. Thirdly, to moderate our care in seeking for the blessings of this life, we must have care to provide things honest and necessary; and for this end must exercise ourselves in the use of lawful means, otherwise we shall tempt God. But yet our care must be so moderate, that we still depend upon our heavenly FatherŐs care and providence for us, who bids us ask Him bread for every day. And thus we shall have enough, whenas distrustful and immoderate care shall help us nothing. When the Israelites lived by manna (Exod. 16:18,19), which God gave them from heaven, they were commanded to gather but for one day, and to reserve none of it till the morrow; whereby God would teach them to depend upon His daily providence; which while they did, they had sufficient, and that which was good; but when through covetousness they would needs gather more than for the day, and so reserved of it till the morning, GodŐs curse light upon it, for it was full of worms and stank (v.20). And afterward when they began to dislike manna (Num. 11:4), and were not content with His providence, but lusted after flesh, He gave them their desire, but withal His wrath fell upon them while the flesh was between their teeth before it was chewed (v.33). And so it will be with us if we distrust in God. But if we learn and practise this dependence on GodŐs particular providence, we shall have experience of His goodness, though ordinary means fail, either by supply (as 1 Kin. 17:6), or by patience to bear the want.

 

4 Use. Fourthly, here we have a good ground of that holy practice of GodŐs children, sanctifying their meat and drink by prayer and thanksgiving; for here we are taught to pray for temporal blessings, and therefore when we have them and use them, we should glorify God by prayer and thanksgiving for His blessing upon them. The reason hereof is great, for: first, hereby we are distinguished from brute beasts, who live upon GodŐs blessings, but yet cannot praise Him as man may do. Secondly, hereby we testify our right and interest into GodŐs creatures by Jesus Christ, which we lost in Adam; for true prayer is a fruit of faith, and by faith we are made partakers of Christ Jesus. Thirdly, such is our corruption by nature that we are prone to abuse all GodŐs blessings, and therefore we must pray for grace to use them moderately and thankfully.

 

5 Use. Fifthly, here we may learn how to frame our daily prayers to God, for this circumstance of time must be referred to every petition; and therefore this must be our practice, every day to pray for grace to glorify GodŐs name, to yield obedience to His will, to have our sins forgiven, and so for the rest.

 

 

5. For whom do we ask bread? Not for ourselves alone, but for our brethren; Give us; which serves to teach us brotherly love, which seeketh not her own things only, but is bountiful towards others, seeking their good also. And indeed here we are but stewards of GodŐs temporal blessings, and therefore may not employ them as we will, but for His glory, who is our absolute Lord. Now His discretion is to this effect; that first, we should glorify God with our temporal goods, employing them for the maintenance of His worship, and of true religion. Secondly, that we should employ them for the common good, in the relief of the poor, and other necessary duties for the commonwealth. Thirdly, that we should provide for our own, especially them of our family, that we may live in peace and quietness, and so the better prepare ourselves for the life to come.

 

6. From whom must we look to receive our bread? Namely, from God; for we say unto Him that is our Father in Christ, Give us; which teacheth us that though we be His children, and so have right to temporal blessings, yet whatsoever we have, we must know it comes from God, and must receive and use it as from His hand. And this we shall do if we sanctify the creatures of God unto our temporal use; for every creature of God is good, if it be sanctified in His use. Now the creature is sanctified not as man is, when the Spirit of God worketh in him, abolishing corruption and renewing grace; nor yet as the elements in the sacraments are sanctified, which are set apart by God to an holy and spiritual use, to be seals and pledges of grace; but when it is made fit to our temporal and civil use, which is done by the word and prayer (1 Tim 4:4,5). Whereby the word is meant; first, the word of creation, whereby God in the beginning fitted the creature for manŐs use, and gave him power and sovereignty over it. Secondly, the word of restitution, whereby after the fall, and after the flood, He granted unto man the use of His creatures (Gen. 9:3). Thirdly, the word of the gospel concerning our Christian liberty, wherein He hath enlarged our use in the creatures of God (Acts 10:15). And by prayer, we desire God to give His power unto the creatures, and His blessing upon them to serve for our good and comfort; as also to give us grace to receive them as from His hand, and to use them to His glory. If we could learn and practise this duty, we should have more comfort in the creatures than yet we have; yea, it would restrain us from fraud, oppression, cruelty, and from pride and vanity in getting and using all GodŐs blessings; for if we were persuaded that all temporal blessings came from His hand, how durst we sin against Him either in getting or using of them.

 

Secondly, in that after our labour and diligence in our callings, we must still pray to God to give us bread, we must learn to observe that order of causes which God hath set in the producing of all temporal blessings for this life; for not only food and raiment, but our labour and diligence there about are secondary causes, depending upon the blessings of God, which is the first cause of all disposing and ordering all things unto goodness; for it comes from God that meat doth feed us, and clothes do keep us warm. If He say unto stones, become bread, they shall feed us (Matt. 4:3,4). Yea, in the want of bread, He can preserve strength for many days (Exod. 34:28; 1 Kin. 19:8). Yea, if He speak the word, poison shall become bread and nourish us. But without His blessing, nothing can do us good (Psa. 127:1), Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it. We therefore must learn to rely upon GodŐs providence for a blessing on all our labour and study, and wait for His blessing in all the means we use for our good and comfort; for He is our life, our health, our preservation.