Matthew 6:13

11   Give us this day our daily bread, [1]

When Jesus responded to his disciples request to teach them how to pray, he gave them an excellent comprehensive outline in what we have come to call “the Lord’s Prayer.” What we learn from this ideal form of prayer is that we are to submit ourselves first to God’s will, to his interests. The whole of our lives is captured in these petitions. They take into account our every need. They cover the important things, the small things, the spiritual things and the material things, inward and outward things.

Having examined the first three Godward prayer petitions, we begin to consider the last three petitions which address our daily needs. Jesus taught his disciples to begin to pray for God’s name, God’s kingdom, and God’s will. “Hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done.

God’s Kingdom must always take priority over man and his needs, real or perceived. But that should never be stated in isolation from other biblical truths. Man was made for the glory of God. Man can never be what he is intended to be until his life is properly focused on God’s glory. Jesus will make that point later in verses 22 and 23.[2]

God’s glory does not detract from man’s life. Instead, his glory is the star around which the whole of life must revolve if there is to be the light and life of God in our experience. Since we were created for his glory, we will always malfunction whenever we fail to live for that purpose and according to our Maker’s instructions.[3]

But having prayed for these glorious things and established a correct set of priorities, we are then to pray for human interests also. The last petitions say, “Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.” These are requests for physical needs, forgiveness of sins, and spiritual safety. The prayer ends with a new acknowledgement of God’s glory.

“The first request deals with our physical needs, for the phrase ‘our daily bread’ includes by implication all the needs of life. It is a prayer for food and clothing, a home, a decent job, and many other physical necessities. At the same time it should be evident that it does not encourage us to pray for superfluities. Philippians 4:19 says that God ‘will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus,’ but it does not say that God shall supply all your wants. God gives many of us the obvious luxuries of life, sometimes, so it seems, to our spiritual hurt. But we are nowhere told to ask for these things. We are told to ask only for necessities.”[4]

The word “daily” has been the source of linguistic controversy. This is the only occurrence of the word not only in all of scripture, but in all extant Greek literature. It was found once in a nonliterary papyrus fragment containing a grocery list where it seemed to indicate the requirements of the day. But the meaning is not crystal clear. If true, then the Lord’s prayer reads, “Give us this day our bread for tomorrow,” Which is the way it reads in the Revised Standard Version and the New English Bible.[5]

  1. Kent Hughes offers a good compromise: “If this prayer is offered in the morning, it is a prayer for the needs of the day. If it is prayed in the evening, it is a prayer for the needs of the next day. The basic, primary sense is the same.”[6] Praying for tomorrow’s bread asks that God meet our needs both with the bread of our daily necessities and with the bread of the ultimate tomorrow, the bread of eternity – that is, with Christ himself.


In our modern western culture, we are so accustomed to our extraordinary affluence that for many of us this petition has lost its power. That is because we have lost a biblical view of life. The food we eat is ours only because God upholds our universe and gives us seed time and harvest. The food we eat nourishes us only because of his blessing.[7]

The reason we are to ask for life’s daily necessities it’s that God has purposed to give us what we ask for. A master cares for the needs of his servants. A general meets the needs of the soldiers. A father provides for the needs of his children. Each is willing. In the same way, our Dear Heavenly Father cares for those who have become his children through trust into the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

You might be wondering how you can know that God is willing to answer your requests for your necessities. The answer is that Jesus taught God was willing. In fact, he teaches that in the very next chapter of Matthew as an expansion on this petition. Jesus said:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! [8]

We learn three things about prayer. First, we must be God’s children before we can come to God. Second, as God’s children we are invited and even encouraged to come. Third, God delights to answer those who come. When we approach God in prayer through the Lord Jesus Christ by means of his Holy Spirit, we do not come as God’s enemies. We come as God’s children, as intimate members of his family.

There are many things an earthly father would not do for a stranger. There are certainly even more he would not do for an enemy. But there is almost nothing within his power he would not do for one of his beloved children. In the same way, we come to our Dear Heavenly Father who is not distant, harsh, stingy, or begrudging in his gifts. We come to a God who is loving, willing, and merciful, and who is anxious to be known and loved by his children.

Our God urges us to come and delights in our regular and repeated conversations. Regular and repeated prayer is commended by the words “today” and “daily.” Anything repeated twice in a prayer of only 65 words (72 in Greek) is important. Since the word translated “daily” suggests a day’s ration for a person or group, this fourth petition is a request that God grant us our daily ration of necessities.


Understanding this prayer is a simple petition for the things we need every day, and that God invites us to pray this way, we can derive particular truths from it. First, it shows that God cares for our bodies. There have always been some in the Christian Church who have minimized the physical body believing that only the spirit is important.

This Greek Gnosticism often takes the form of denying the physical body it’s daily needs and/or self-torture. This is not biblical. Jesus showed us that. He spent a great deal of his ministry healing people’s diseases and satisfying their physical hunger. The fact that the son of God took on a human body as well as a human nature shows that God intends salvation for the body as well as the spirit.

Second, this petition teaches that we are to live one day at a time. We are not to be anxious about the future. We are to live in moment-by-moment dependence upon God. Jesus will conclude his teaching on prayer in 6:34 with this summation: “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

This petition may take on slightly different flavors from one culture to another. It may have a different meaning in a culture in which the needs of the future are met through family structure than it has in a society in which the needs of the future are met through financial planning and saving.

In our culture, it would be wrong for a father to neglect his children’s needs, his own retirement, and old age because he interprets this passage incorrectly. Part of our daily ration consists of the funds to be laid aside for the next. Yet, we are not to be so given over to the idea that our future depends upon us rather than upon our Heavenly Father.

The point of this petition is not so much to ask you if you are performing daily prayer for your daily needs. The point is that God is always faithful to his children. If you trust that statement to be true, then you will want to flee early and often to your Dear Heavenly Father. If you do not trust it to be true, then you will strive to live by your own human wisdom and your own wits like an orphan on the mean streets – praying only in the direst of circumstances.


We also need to understand that our daily rations also consist of spiritual nourishment. We must feed spiritually upon God. Only one other passage in the entire Bible exists where we read the request to “give us bread.” It’s found in John 6. Jesus had just miraculously fed thousands of people. Those people began to search for him when he left. When they found him on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, Jesus told them they were only seeking him out for another free meal.

Christ instructed them not to seek after “the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.[9] The people then asked what works they needed to do to earn this eternal life. Jesus responded, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.[10] Then the people who had just been miraculously fed asked Jesus what sign he could perform to convince them that he was sent by God. After all, Moses had already given bread to the children of Israel.

Jesus replied, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.[11] Hearing, but not understanding, the people asked for that special bread. Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.[12]

Obviously, the Jews were thinking of physical bread just as the woman of Samaria had been thinking of physical water. But Jesus pointed them away from those merely physical things to himself as the one who could satisfy the far greater hunger of the soul. But the Jews had no ears to hear what he was saying to them. Even the ability to understand Jesus is a gift from the Heavenly Father working through the Holy Spirit in sin-hardened hearts.

Christ even told the crowd this fact:

36 But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 37 All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. 38 For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. 39 And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. 40 For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” [13]

What does it mean to feed on the Lord Jesus Christ as our spiritual bread? It means that he is the source of all life, both physical and spiritual. When we draw close to him and learn about him, we grow spiritually. Unless we do this, our souls will shrivel in spiritual hunger and thirst.

One of the tragic and repeated experiences for the people of Israel was that they repeatedly desired things instead of God. Often, he gave them over to the “things” they sought but sent leanness to their souls (Ps. 106:15). We are no different than the children of Israel. We often find ourselves rich in stuff but impoverished in spirit.

Perhaps you have filled yourself with all the means of satisfying physical hunger, and yet do not have the richness of the spiritual food Christ offers. You ask God for your physical bread but might have rarely prayed for this spiritual bread that comes down from heaven. All our hungers are useful. They are good and right within their bounds. They have been put there by God who made us.

We hunger for achievement, for love, for happiness, for success, for our reputations. All these things are good in themselves when they are used as God intends. But it is tragic that so many Christians attempt to satisfy their hungers at the expense of spending necessary and genuinely satisfying time in fellowship with our Dear Heavenly Father.

One of the means of God’s grace is the mutuality of the gospel community this prayer fosters. Jesus commands that we pray “give us,” not “give me.” When we pray this petition from our heart, we affirm our solidarity with our siblings in Christ. We are also making an implicit commitment to help provide bread for needy friends. We not only Depend on God for practical provision, but we also commit ourselves to be part of God’s answer for others in need.


When we pray, “Give us this day our bread for tomorrow,” it draws our focus to our future state. The three preceding petitions of the prayer all point ultimately to the final eternal state, when God’s name is finally hallowed, his Kingdom has fully come, and his will is perpetually done. Tomorrow’s bread is eternal.

Jesus used only one symbol to describe the eternal state for believers, and he used it many times. He repeatedly called it a great, joyful feast. This is where the bread of heaven will be served. So when we are told to pray for tomorrow’s bread, he is urging us to pray for the bread of eternity today.

The Lord is telling us, his children, that through prayer we can grab the glorious bread of eternity and feast upon it. We grab Christ himself who is eternity. Christ never disappoints us. He always gives this bread to those who ask. We mere humans may have good intentions, but we do not always follow through. We are happy to confuse our good intentions with actually acting upon them. But Christ always acts upon his intention to give us himself.

When we pray, “Give us today our daily Bread,” we pray for physical bread and for spiritual bread which are in both cases the “bread of tomorrow.” In the Lord’s Supper, a privileged remembrance feast and spiritual communion between Christ and his followers, physical bread symbolizes the spiritual bread of the Kingdom. It is our foretaste of the Kingdom coming in all its fullness when we will sit down with one another and with Jesus at the head of the table.

The bread of communion is real bread. It has the taste of history when our Lord’s physical body was broken for us on the cross. But it also has the taste of the future when we will enjoy him forever outside the presence of sin in us and around us. Our relationships with one another will be perfect. Our relationship with God will be perfect. We will have on that day the Bread of tomorrow.

On that momentous day we will hear:

the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure….”

John the Revelator explains:

— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are the true words of God.”[14]


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 6:11.

[2] Ferguson, 127.

[3] Id.

[4] James Montgomery Boice, The Sermon on the Mount: An Expositional Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 190.

[5] Hughes, R. Kent. The Sermon on the Mount: The Message of the Kingdom (Preaching the Word). Crossway. Kindle Edition.

[6] Id.

[7] Ferguson, 128.

[8] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 7:7–11.

[9] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 6:27.

[10] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 6:29.

[11] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 6:32–33.

[12] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 6:35.

[13] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 6:36–40.

[14] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Re 19:6–9.