LORD’S DAY 49
- What is the fourth petition?
“Give us this day our daily bread;” that is, be pleased to provide for all our bodily need,1 so that we may thereby acknowledge that You are the only fountain of all good,2 and that without Your blessing neither our care and labor, nor Your gifts, can profit us;3 that we may therefore withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it in You alone.4
 Ps. 104:27–28; 145:15–16; Matt. 6:25–26.  Acts 14:17; 17:27–28.  1 Cor. 15:58; Deut. 8:3; Ps. 37:3–7, 16–17.  Ps. 55:22; 62:10; *Ps. 127:1–2; *Jer. 17:5, 7; *Ps. 146:2–3.
Acknowledging our Dependence
Ours is not a religion of empty ritual or of manipulating or controlling divine powers. So why do we pray for our food? Why do we ask God to provide our daily bread and give thanks to Him when He does? After all, the unbelievers seem to eat just fine, often better than believers do.
Many passages in Scripture, some of them listed as the proof texts for question 125 (such as Psalm 104:27-28) teach us that it is God that provides food for every living thing including humans. It is absolute madness for us to suppose that we can provide for ourselves. Many think they do, but when they examine a bit closer they will see the folly of it. The farmer who grows food did not cause the sun to come up in the morning or the rain to fall. He did not invent photosynthesis. The farmer did not even invent farming; the most innovative farmer will at best just add a tiny bit of knowledge to the storehouse of best practices developed before him. All the best food in the world will do us no good if our mouths cannot chew it and our stomachs cannot digest it and our cells cannot absorb it, none of which processes were designed by the wisdom of man. We could go on in this vein for some time, and repeat it for any trade we find ourselves in. It is as if a man were led into a large room with a huge and insanely complex machine in it, with gears and pulleys and belts all in an incomprehensible order, with a lever and a large sign next to it saying “pull for food,” which he pulls and food drops out, and then the man congratulates himself for his industry and genius for diligently pulling that handle.
So we work hard at what is put in front of us to do, but we do so out of thankfulness to God and a desire to become what He has purposed for us to be, not because we are possessed of some illusion that we can control our own fates or provide for ourselves the things we need out of our own strength or character. When we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” we recognize and acknowledge that vital fact.
This acknowledgement brings with it several benefits, the main and overarching one of which is taught to us in the last phrase of question 125. That benefit is trust. Faith, which is just trusting what God has told us, is the main thing, and we are called to learn to have faith in God for everything, not just what happens to me when I die but what happens to my body when I eat food, when I drink water, when I go to sleep. It is only by God’s ordination that I will get any of these things in the first place, let alone benefit physically from them. There is no real separation between faith in God to provide for me physically and faith in God to redeem me eternally, for the same God that promised to do the one promised the other as well. Faith just means trusting God, believing what He says He will do.
God made our bodies as well as our souls, and we are designed to be bodies as well as souls. Jesus tells us in Luke 12:22-32 that we should not worry about food or drink, not (as many religions, especially those of the Eastern mystical variety, might tell us) because those things are unimportant but because our heavenly Father, who loves us and created us, knows that we need them and will provide them for us. Laziness and complacency is ruled out as well, for Jesus concludes that section of Luke by exhorting us to “seek first the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added unto you.” The wrong interpretation of this is that we should therefore not work at jobs or try to take care of our bodies, and instead spend all our days in religious contemplation on top of a mountain somewhere. That would contradict a lot of the rest of the Scriptures. Rightly interpreted, it means that when we work at our jobs or exercise or watch our diet, what we really should be doing in each of those cases is seeking the kingdom of God, seeking the internal rule of God to govern our lives and to become what God wills for us to be.
God certainly could supernaturally drop food down into our refrigerators. He fed Elijah by ravens that brought him bread and meat by the brook Cherith, but that is not His normal way of operating. Normally He feeds us through that great machine called nature and civilization that He designed and made, and He has a reason for that, for He created us to be in dominion over these things. By feeding us through the natural processes of the world He has made, He trains us and makes us what He wills for us to be. So when we work at the work God gives us, what we really should be seeking is the Kingdom of God and His righteousness, and trusting that God will feed us and provide for us as He promised. He is indeed faithful, and so we pray to Him to give us our daily bread along with all our bodily needs, in full knowledge that He has done so and is doing so already. Praying for our daily bread does not get us more food than those who do not pray, but it does train us in wisdom and faith, far more valuable than any material blessing.