The Lord’s Prayer (part 5): Give Us Our Daily Bread

Reading: Exodus 16:1-4 & Gospel of Matthew 6:5-13

Exo 16:1-4 And they pulled up stakes from Elim. And all the congregation of the sons of Israel came into the Wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their going out from the land of Egypt. (2) And all the congregation of the sons of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron in the wilderness. (3) And the sons of Israel said to them, Would that we had died by the hand of Jehovah in the land of Egypt, in our sitting by the fleshpots, in our eating bread to satisfaction. For you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill all this assembly with hunger. (4) And Jehovah said to Moses, Behold, I AM! Bread will rain from the heavens for you. And the people shall go out and gather the matter of a day in its day, so that I may test them, whether they will walk in My Law or not.

Matt 6:9-13 So, then, you should pray this way: Our Father who is in Heaven, Hallowed be Your name. (10) Your kingdom come; Your will be done, as it is in Heaven, also on the earth. (11) Give us today our daily bread, (12) and forgive us our debts as we also forgive our debtors. (13) And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil, for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory to the ages. Amen.

SERMON

To be admonished, as we are in this prayer, to request something from the Lord is for our benefit. The Lord actually never withholds anything from anyone and this is captured in a wonderful statement drawn from the teachings of Spiritual Christianity where we are told that love is desiring that all one has be another’s and further in another statement where we are told that love is feeling the joy of another as ones own. The Lord is love itself and so His own desire is to give all that He is to us for our happiness and His joy is to feel our joy as his own. The Lord is constantly giving all that is needed to support the spiritual life and well being of all people. Where there is a lack, be it material or spiritual, has nothing to do with any unwillingness on the Lord’s part to provide, but rather is the result of the operation of evil, which is the human tendency to self interest. The Lord cannot withhold His blessings from us, but we can refuse to receive them into our life through being unwilling to work on our inner motivations, preferring to live from our ego or proprium as the dominant ruling principle of our life.

This statement captures an acknowledgement that is so central to a healthy outlook as far as the way in which we experience life is concerned. It is an acknowledgement of the Lord as the provider and source of all that is good. Bread, in the Word, spiritually, is understood to mean the goodness that flows from the Lord or the Word and so is that divine spiritual nourishment provided to build, nurture and sustain our inner life. To acknowledge the Lord as the source of this kind of bread or goodness is to acknowledge the Word as Divine, for the Word, understood to be the Holy Scriptures along with genuine teachings draw from them, is the source of every form of goodness able to build up our spiritual life. So this statement, “Give us this day our daily bread…” reminds us that we are to look to the Lord, or Word, who is our Father as the source of all things.

The Greek root, from which comes the word translated here as bread, means to “lift up” or “raise”, which suggests the spiritual nature of the kind of bread being spoken about. This just isn’t any bread, it’s bread of a higher order, super-substantial bread, or the bread of heaven, which is given so that our thoughts and affections might be lifted from their focus on earthly things to behold heavenly things. This bread is the bread that serves as the means by which the previous statement of the prayer can be realised – it is the bread through which the will of the Lord can come to be done “as in heaven so upon the earth”.

The Lord in speaking of Himself in the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel makes it clear that, He is the bread which comes down from heaven and gives life; that He is the bread of life and as that bread He declares that He comes to do the will of the Father…we pick up His teaching in verse 38…

Joh 6:38-40 For I have come down out of Heaven, not that I should do My will, but the will of Him who sent Me. (39) And this is the will of the Father sending Me, that of all that He has given Me, I shall not lose any of it, but shall raise it up in the last day. (40) And this is the will of the One sending Me, that everyone seeing the Son and believing into Him should have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day…Joh 6:50-51 This is the Bread coming down out of Heaven, that anyone may eat of it and not die. (51) I am the Living Bread that came down from Heaven. If anyone eats of this Bread, he will live forever. And indeed the bread which I will give is My flesh, which I will give for the life of the world…Joh 6:55-58 For My flesh is truly food, and My blood is truly drink. (56) The one partaking of My flesh and drinking of My blood abides in Me, and I in him. (57) Even as the living Father sent Me, and I live through the Father; also the one partaking Me, even that one will live through Me. (58) This is the Bread which came down out of Heaven, not as your fathers ate the manna and died; the one partaking of this Bread will live forever.

These words of John’s Gospel are to be understood within the context of his opening statement in chapter one, that the Lord is the Word who comes down out of heaven. John’s overall purpose is to show us how it is that the Lord is the Word, so that in coming to statements like this, and there are many of them in John, we don’t get lost in some kind of mystical fog. When the Lord talks about Himself being bread and so our “eating His flesh” He is speaking spiritually, in fact this is exactly the point He makes to His disciples in the context of this very chapter, in verse 63 He says…

Joh 6:63 It is the Spirit that gives life. The flesh profits nothing! The Words I speak to you are spirit and life.

Peter, one of the disciples, gets it, for a little later he says in response to the Lord…

Joh 6:68-69 …Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the Words of everlasting life.

The Lord is talking about Himself as the Word. The flesh or body of the Lord is that which contains Him and to which we have access. We know that the Lord fulfilled all things of the Word and so became the Word. If we think of the Lord as that goodness or bread that comes down from heaven then its container is the Word or the Divine Truth. Goodness is contained within truths in the sense that truths teach what is good. Divine Goodness is contained in Divine Truths for Divine Truths teach what Divine Goodness is. Divine Truths are presented to us in the form of the Word, for this is where the Lord is to be found for those who follow the teachings of Spiritual Christianity. To eat his flesh then, is to take into ourselves the truths of the Word and to seek to have them govern our lives. When these truths are lived from they become goodness for then the Lord is in them. This is what is meant by the Lord’s Divine Human.

If we will do this then we will be living out this statement of the prayer; our lives will be a living acknowledgement of the words, “Give us this day our daily bread…”

The Lord has provided all things for our life in His Word, He has also given us an understanding with which we can come to the Word and learn from Him there, and He has given us a will to do what it instructs us to do, and He has ensured our freedom to approach Him in the Word or not. What we need to understand is that the natural man will resist us making any effort to connect with the Lord in His Word. There will be little motivation for us to do this, in fact we may like the children of Israel find that the manna doesn’t have the same attraction as the ideas and concepts the world has to offer(represented by the flesh pots of Egypt). This is because the food of Egypt is presented in a way that appeals to the loves of self and the world. It’s designed to awaken the delights of these lower loves, to make us feel good about ourselves from all the wrong motivations, this food promotes a sense of “good” or delightful feelings connected with a spirit of self interest, of having one up over others, of feelings of superiority, independence, or arrogance, it works to justify vengeful responses when our egos are bruised or we feel hurt. To be caught up in the delight of feeling good from this basis is of course being immersed in pleasures that are the very opposite of any genuine forms of goodness.

True bread from heaven, which is from the Word alone, looks to lift us out of these false delights so that we can find our sense of delight in loving the Lord and our neighbour. This is what we are asking for when we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread…” It’s a prayer lived when we are in the effort of actively seeking the means to do this through being engaged with the truths of the Lord’s Word. This is our life task, to seek the Lord while He may be found; that the perpetual bread that is his life might be revealed to us in each moment of our lives.

There is a wonderful teaching found in the Heavenly Doctrines in regard to the angelic state of life that is connected to this statement of the Lord’s Prayer.

Spiritual Experiences (Odhner) 2188.
I spoke with angels, and at the time I saw in a spiritual mental image that the more inwardly perfect angels are, the less memory they have of things past, and that therein consists their happiness. For at every moment, the Lord gives them what is pleasant to them, and causes them both to think and to feel-so it is the Lord’s doing, not theirs. This is the meaning of the passage, “Give us this day our daily bread” [Matt. 6:11, Luke 11:3], and that they should take no thought for the future, what they should eat and drink [Matt. 6: 25, 31], and that they gathered the manna daily [Exod. 16:14-21].

And since angels have no memory of things past, neither do they have any foresight of the future, which is a result of that same memory. Yet they seem to themselves to have a memory and to know all kinds of things beyond number, because this is granted to them by the Lord from moment to moment. Therefore they may indeed suppose that it is their memory, when yet it is not. In short, their happiness consists in this, and in being in the Lord.

We seen then how a true acknowledgement of the Lord as the source of all things is able to bring peace and delight into our lives.

Amen

AC 2838
[4] That ‘daily’ and ‘today’ mean that which is perpetual is clear also from the sacrifice that was offered each day. This sacrifice, because of what is meant by day, daily, and today, was called the continual, or perpetual, sacrifice, Num. 28: 3, 23; Dan. 8: 13; 11: 31; 12: 11. This may be even more plainly evident from the manna which rained from heaven, spoken of in Moses as follows,

Behold, I am causing bread to rain from heaven, and the people shall go out and gather a portion day by day. And they shall not leave any of it until the morning. That which they did leave until the morning bred worms and went rotten, except that gathered on the day before the Sabbath. Exod. 16: 4, 19, 20, 23.

This happened because ‘the manna’ meant the Lord’s Divine Human, John 6: 31, 32, 49, 50, 58, and because the Lord’s Divine Human meant heavenly food, which is nothing other than love and charity, together with the goods and truths of faith. In heaven the Lord imparts this food to angels moment by moment, thus perpetually and eternally, see 2193. This is also what is meant in the Lord’s Prayer by the petition, Give us today our daily bread, Matt. 6: 11; Luke 11: 3, that is, in every moment for evermore.

From the work Arcana Coelestia by Emanuel Swedenborg

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