This is another post that’s been a long time in the writing: certainly in the Developed world, a lot of us can hardly complain about God providing us with actual food (see http://england.lovefoodhatewaste.com/node/2472 for facts on the amount of food we throw away in the UK alone, andhttp://www.behance.net/gallery/Food-Waste-in-the-USA-Infographic/3091109, amongst other sites, for the same information in the USA.) But I think that ‘our daily bread’ encompasses a whole lot more than physical food and water. Surely Jesus was talking about not only the needs of our physical bodies (which also include warmth, shelter, clothes), but also our spiritual sustenance – the food for our souls.
And, if I’m very honest (with God as well as myself), I’ve found it hard to write about needs being met, when I’ve found it so hard recently to see how some of these are being met in my own life. I’ve struggled to see how some circumstances are part of His plan as they haven’t worked out as I’ve imagined, or as I’ve wanted ….
Which brings me to my first point: Jesus’ model prayer teaches us to ask for our NEEDS, not necessarily our WANTS.
Not, I hasten to add, that it’s necessarily bad to WANT – but maybe (maybe? definitely!) God has a plan for us that may not encompass all that we want, but He in His wisdom has ordained for us because it’s what we need. So an act of faith is to pray that even if we can’t see how this is all going to work out, that we trust God to supply what we need (as Paul assures us He will in Philippians 4 v 19.) And it is an act of faith for some, in their own situations, more than others.
This morning I led a meditation on the Feeding of the Five Thousand, from John’s gospel (see John 6: 1-13) at our church, where I invited those present to imagine themselves into the scene and watch the events unfold. This is an exercise I first carried out about twenty years ago or more – and can reveal something about where someone is in relation to God (where they see themselves in the story, for example – on the edge of the crowd, worried and fretting like the disciples, or daring to offer what they have like the small boy with the loaves and fish.) I asked them afterwards to write down (for their own contemplation only, unless they chose to share, which a few did): 1) Where they had put themselves in the story, 2) What they saw / felt when they looked at Jesus and 3) What they felt that God was trying to say to them / teach them through this experience.
As ever, I count myself blessed if God speaks to people through anything I say – it is He who speaks to people – if just my words alone, it won’t touch them like He can. And that brings me to my second point: When we pray for God to give us today our daily bread, are we also prepared to be His instrument to supply the needs of others?
This may be their physical needs through our giving of our money or possessions, but it may also be their spiritual needs through the giving of our time, prayer and love. If the little boy had looked at the crowd, then at his small lunchbox, back at the crowd – and decided that actually, he’d rather eat it himself, thank you very much! … what then? Jesus used that small unselfish act of giving, to provide for a multitude. Even if we feel we only have a pitifully small amount to offer, God can use that to supply the needs of those around us. In my own week, it has taken the time, words and love of those around me to shift my perspective, so that I can begin to see what God is doing in my circumstances, and to know again that I am blessed indeed.
I can’t leave this theme without mentioning the topic of Fair Trade, of which I am a passionate supporter. Numerous times in the Bible, it talks about God’s heart for social justice, as in Micah 6 v 8:
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
And again in James 2: 15-17:
Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
So we, with our consumer choices, can choose to buy, for a little more of our own money, products with one of the symbols above. These are products that give the producer a living wage; the chance to have education for their children; and healthcare for their whole family (for more information on Fair Trade, see http://www.fairtrade.org.uk/.) Surely that is not only giving us our daily bread, but giving the same to others, who desperately need it, as well.
All Bible verses come from the New International Version, unless otherwise stated.
(Picture credits: Pic. 1 – http://danieljclark.typepad.com/my_weblog/2010/11/bread-of-life-sermon-on-john-622-35.html; Pic. 2 – http://dwellingintheword.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/748-john-61-24/; Pic. 3 – http://www.fjm.org/news_events/media_center/take_3/20111123; all other pictures from http://fairtradeburlington.wordpress.com/what-does-it-mean-to-be-fair-trade-2/)