How to Pray (Part 4): “Give Us Our Daily Bread” and “Forgive Us Our Sins”
This is the fourth of a five-part series on the Lord’s Prayer. Don’t miss Monday’s post (“Our Father”), Tuesday’s (“Hallowed Be Your Name”), or yesterday’s (“Your Kingdom Come, Your Will Be Done”). And be sure to come back tomorrow for the last installment!
If It Matters to You, It Matters to God: The Encouraging Command to Pray for Bread
I find it comforting—empowering, almost—that Jesus liked bread. There’s proof, you see, in his model prayer: “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11 ESV). Not “our daily kale” or “our daily juice cleanse.” What would Jesus do? He wouldn’t get the bun-less hamburger, that’s what.
Most of us in the West never think to pray this phrase because we don’t wonder where our next meal, whether it’s burgers or kale, is coming from. It should be noted, of course, that many believers throughout the world, in their poverty, identify with this request much more intuitively. But what Jesus wants to teach every believer here is how to develop a posture of dependence on God, thanking him for every gift, great and small.
The essence of sin, you see, is independence and autonomy from God. “Give us our daily bread” pushes us the opposite way. The phrasing (in Greek) is “today bread.” It is intentionally short-lived.
It means that day by day, we are looking to God as the ultimate source of everything—not just bread, but anything we need—as a dad, as a husband, as a student, in any role we have. Nothing is off limits. Our requests don’t even have to be spiritual, because bread, after all, is not particularly spiritual.
“Give us our daily bread” means that day by day, we are looking to God as the ultimate source of everything we need.
One of my favorite promises related to this is Philippians 4:6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
What should we look to God for? Literally anything we’re worried about. Is it just me, or does that just open the door wide open?
I went through Scripture and made a list of some of the varied things that people prayed about. Note how some of these are spiritual and some are not.
- Zacharias and Elizabeth wanted a family when they couldn’t have kids, so they prayed for a son.
- Solomon prayed for wisdom in his new job.
- Gideon thought God was calling him to do something, but he wasn’t sure, so he prayed for confirmation that he should do it.
- David prayed for forgiveness after committing adultery with Bathsheba. He prayed God would give him a clean heart and a renewed, steadfast spirit.
- Elijah prayed that it wouldn’t rain.
- Paul prayed that some thorn in the flesh that bothered him would be taken away.
- The disciples prayed for boldness.
- Fathers in the New Testament prayed for their little girls to get better.
- Peter asked Jesus for financial help to pay his taxes.
- Jesus told us to pray for lost people and the workers to get the gospel to them.
- All the apostles prayed for Jesus to come back quickly.
If it matters to you, it matters to God. And if it matters to God, you can pray about it.
Psalm 84:11 says that God won’t withhold any good thing from those who walk uprightly before him. It’s a promise that in no assignment he has given us will he fail to give the “daily bread” we need. He won’t give you all that you want (thank God!), but he never gives you less than you need.
Should We Really Confess Our Sins Every Day?
Jesus showed us that we can ask God for whatever we need, but he also stressed the need for confession. Confession is an important part of our spiritual growth, because it helps us clear out sin so that it isn’t growing and spreading in us.
Sin loses its power when it is exposed. So, Scripture tells us to confess our sins first to God and then to others where we need to, because we strip sin of its power that way. This is why we pray, “Forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us” (NLT).
If you’re like me, you may struggle to actually include this phrase in your prayers. It’s not (necessarily) that you think you’re sinless. But coming up with specific instances might be a little awkward. To confess sin, you have to identify sin. And (Can I be frank?) sometimes, in the moment, I can’t think of anything to ask for which to ask specific forgiveness. Honestly, I can barely remember what I had for lunch yesterday, much less my sins. Maybe that’s because I have a dull conscience, but that’s where I find myself. I’m guessing you can relate.
Here’s what we can do when we feel stuck on confession. (Other than, for the married folks, asking your spouse to make you a list!) I have three major areas of sin that I know are particular challenges for me. So I just start with those three. And as I go through them—starting pretty generically—the Holy Spirit inevitably leads me to specific instances of them, and then, usually, to other sins as well.
Something we often overlook in our confession, though, is just how community-oriented it is. Jesus indicates in this phrase that confession is inherently related to our attitude toward others.
When you think about it, this makes perfect sense. The primary thing that produces compassion and generosity in me toward others is realizing how gracious and compassionate God has been toward me. The more I approach God as a son who is both deeply loved and deeply forgiven, the more I can approach my brothers and sisters in Christ that way.
Or, as the Apostle John put it, we love because he first loved us.