Today’s reading: Matthew 6:1-18
Today we read Matthew chapter 6, where Jesus gives us the model prayer.
When of the most fascinating and important parts of the prayer is the line, “Give us this day our daily bread”. The word used for “daily bread” is epiousios. What is interesting about this word is that it is seldom used in Greek. In fact, scholars can find no example of its use in any ancient writings that pre-date the Gospel. In other words, the first recorded use of this word is the Our Father.
The word is pregnant with meaning. It implies a future happening. Thus, the line implies more of “Give us every day our daily bread”. Even more interesting is the literal translation of the word. Literally translated the word means “super bread” or “super substantial bread.” Thus, the line properly translated could be read, “Give us this day our super substantial bread”. We can see therefore that Jesus is talking about more than just food for the body. As always are ears should perk up and we should take notice when the Bible speaks of bread (and covenants). In the Our Father, Jesus speaks of bread that is more than bread, it is “super substantial”. This bread is easily seen to be His body, “which I will give for the life of the world.” At its simplest level, “Give us this day our daily bread” is a prayer asking God for our daily physical need for food but its deeper meaning is a plea to God for the bread we truly need, the bread of life.
Finally, a quick word on repetitive prayer. Jesus says,
In praying, do not babble like the pagans, who think that they will be heard because of their many words.
Sometimes this verse is used to suggest that any type or repetitive prayer is prohibited. However, that does not follow, given that Jesus teaches us the Our Father immediately after saying this. It would not make sense for Jesus to give us a model prayer to repeat, immediately after telling us not to repeat prayers. What’s key here is to understand how the pagans prayed. They would repeat mantras. Sometimes they would repeat “magic words” or incantations in which they didn’t even understand what the words meant. The purpose of these mantras would be to either (a) appease an angry god who then would leave you alone or (b) force a benevolent god to give you good fortune or luck. Jesus’ prohibition against “babbling like the pagans” is there a prohibition against treating prayer like currency to pay off or buy what you want from God. By giving the Our Father immediately after this prohibition Jesus is showing us that true prayer should be praise and thank God and then to ask humbly for our needs.
Tomorrow: Matthew 6:19-34