Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread
Look to God for What Is Needed Each Day
In Luke it is recorded that one of His disciples asked Jesus, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples” (Luke 11:1). Jesus then gave a pattern for prayer that has become known as the Lord’s Prayer. The same is recorded in Matthew as part of the Sermon on the Mount (see Matthew 6:9–13).
Included in the Lord’s Prayer is the petition “Give us this day our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11) or “Give us day by day our daily bread” (Luke 11:3). I believe that we would all readily acknowledge that we have needs each day that we want our Heavenly Father’s help in dealing with. For some, on some days, it is quite literally bread—that is, the food needed to sustain life that day. It could also be spiritual and physical strength to deal with one more day of chronic illness or a painfully slow rehabilitation. In other cases it may be less tangible needs, such as things related to one’s obligations or activities in that day—teaching a lesson or taking a test, for example.
Jesus is teaching us, His disciples, that we should look to God each day for the bread—the help and sustenance—we require in that particular day. This is consistent with the counsel to “pray always, and not faint; that ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul” (2 Nephi 32:9).
The Lord’s invitation to seek our daily bread at our Heavenly Father’s hand speaks of a loving God, aware of even the small, daily needs of His children and anxious to assist them, one by one. He is saying that we can ask in faith of that Being “that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given” (James 1:5). That is, of course, tremendously reassuring, but there is something at work here that is more significant than just help in getting by day to day. As we seek and receive divine bread daily, our faith and trust in God and His Son grow.
Looking to God Daily for Our Needs Nurtures Faith
You will remember the great exodus of the tribes of Israel from Egypt and the 40 years in the wilderness before entering their promised land. This massive host of well over a million people had to be fed. Certainly that number in one location could not long subsist on hunting game, and their seminomadic lifestyle at the time was not conducive to raising crops or livestock in any sufficient quantity. Jehovah solved the challenge by miraculously providing their daily bread from heaven—manna. This small edible substance which appeared on the ground each morning was something quite new and unknown. The name manna, in fact, was derived from words meaning “What is it?” Through Moses, the Lord instructed the people to gather enough each day for that day, except on the day before the Sabbath, when they were to gather enough for two days.
At the beginning, despite Moses’s specific instructions, some tried to gather more than enough for one day and store the balance:
“And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning.
“Notwithstanding they hearkened not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and stank” (Exodus 16:19–20).
As promised, however, when they gathered twice the normal daily quantity of manna on the sixth day, it did not spoil:
“And they laid it up till the morning, as Moses bade: and it did not stink, neither was there any worm therein.
“And Moses said, Eat that to day; for to day is a sabbath unto the Lord: to day ye shall not find it in the field.
“Six days ye shall gather it; but on the seventh day, which is the sabbath, in it there shall be none” (Exodus 16:24–26).
Again, however, some could not believe without seeing, and they went looking to gather manna on the Sabbath.
“And the Lord said unto Moses, How long refuse ye to keep my commandments and my laws?
“See, for that the Lord hath given you the sabbath, therefore he giveth you on the sixth day the bread of two days; abide ye every man in his place, let no man go out of his place on the seventh day” (Exodus 16:28–29).
It seems that even in ancient times, as today, there were some people who couldn’t resist shopping on the Sabbath.
By providing a daily sustenance, one day at a time, Jehovah was trying to teach faith to a nation that over a period of some 400 years had lost much of the faith of their fathers. He was teaching them to trust Him, to “look unto [Him] in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36). He was providing enough for one day at a time. Except for the sixth day, they could not store manna for use in any succeeding day or days. In essence, the children of Israel had to walk with Him today and trust that He would grant a sufficient amount of food for the next day on the next day, and so on. In that way He could never be too far from their minds and hearts.
We should note, by the way, that 40 years of manna was not meant to become a dole. Once the tribes of Israel were in a position to provide for themselves, they were required to do so. After they had crossed the Jordan River and were prepared to begin their conquest of Canaan, beginning at Jericho, the scripture records that “they did eat of the old corn of the land [that is, the previous year’s harvest] on the morrow after the passover. …
“And the manna ceased on the morrow after they had eaten of the old corn of the land; neither had the children of Israel manna any more; but they did eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year” (Joshua 5:11–12).
Likewise, as we plead with God for our daily bread—for help in the moment that we cannot ourselves provide—we must still be active in doing and providing that which is within our power.
Trust in the Lord—Solutions May Come over Time
Some time before I was called as a General Authority, I faced a personal economic challenge that persisted for several years. It did not come about as a consequence of anyone’s wrongdoing or ill will; it was just one of those things that sometimes come into our lives. It ebbed and flowed in seriousness and urgency, but it never went away completely. At times this challenge threatened the welfare of my family and me, and I thought we might be facing financial ruin. I prayed for some miraculous intervention to deliver us. Although I offered that prayer many times with great sincerity and earnest desire, the answer in the end was “No.” Finally I learned to pray as the Savior did: “Nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). I sought the Lord’s help with each tiny step along the way to a final resolution.
There were times when I had exhausted all my resources, when I had nowhere or no one to turn to at that moment, when there was simply no other human being I could call on to help meet the exigency before me. With no other recourse, more than once I fell down before my Heavenly Father begging in tears for His help. And He did help. Sometimes it was nothing more than a sense of peace, a feeling of assurance that things would work out. I might not see how or what the path would be, but He gave me to know that, directly or indirectly, He would open a way. Circumstances might change, a new and helpful idea might come to mind, some unanticipated income or other resource might appear at just the right time. Somehow there was a resolution.
Though I suffered then, as I look back now, I am grateful that there was not a quick solution to my problem. The fact that I was forced to turn to God for help almost daily over an extended period of years taught me truly how to pray and get answers to prayer and taught me in a very practical way to have faith in God. I came to know my Savior and my Heavenly Father in a way and to a degree that might not have happened otherwise or that might have taken me much longer to achieve. I learned that daily bread is a precious commodity. I learned that manna today can be as real as the physical manna of biblical history. I learned to trust in the Lord with all my heart. I learned to walk with Him day by day.
Elder D. Todd Christofferson, CES Fireside January 9, 2001
full text of address can be found onlline at http://lds.org/ldsorg/v/index.jsp?locale=0&sourceId=8c83cccfea02b210VgnVCM100000176f620a____&vgnextoid=43d031572e14e110VgnVCM1000003a94610aRCRD