Friday, August 17, 2012
Our Daily Bread
With the Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer ("Give us this day our daily bread") we pass from the great overarching concerns of the glory and honor of God to our own personal needs. While "the chief end of man is to glorify God," in the words of the old catechism, God is, nonetheless, concerned about our well-being. Thus our physical needs are a legitimate matter of prayer.
The Fourth Petition bears a resemblance to the more elaborate Ninth Benediction of the Jewish Tefillah: "Bless this year to us for good, O Lord our God, in every kind of increase . . . Grant the dew and the rain on the face of the earth, and make full the world from the storehouse of thy goodness. Grant blessing on the works of our hands. Blessed art thou, O Lord, who blesses the years."
The Fourth Petition of the Lord's Prayer is an acknowledgement of our dependence upon God for our daily needs. Granted, the farmer plows the field and sows the seed. He later harvests the crop and stores the grain. But the farmer knows better than most of us how dependent he is upon forces beyond his control. If the rain does not fall the crops do not grow. In the midst of a drought there is nothing the farmer can do to make it rain. If the crop withers and dies his best efforts are all for naught.
It is ultimately God Who controls the weather. He "covers the heavens with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains" (Ps. 147:8; NKJV). God can either send or withhold rain as He sees fit.
But at this point the skeptic is sure to object. The weather is produced by natural causes; there is no direct physical evidence that God has anything to do with it at all. What do we say to that?
Just because it can be demonstrated that a natural phenomenon has an immediate cause does not mean that there is not also a more remote cause behind it. If I strike a chisel with a hammer and the chisel moves, the blow of the hammer is the immediate cause. But what caused the hammer to strike the chisel? Obviously, in this case, it was the human agent. The hammer, by itself, could do nothing at all. There was a chain of events, and something had to set the chain in motion. We can see the effects, but we cannot discern the remote causes. And in this instance, while the hammer was the immediate cause of the effect, it was the remote cause, the human agent, that determined the nature of the final outcome.
A materialist could posit an infinite chain of natural causes, but that is a philosophical supposition, not something that is capable of scientific demonstration. In a Christian theistic worldview God is ultimately in control of everything, and He is the ultimate source of life and energy. " . . . for in Him we live and move and have our being" (Acts 17:28).
How, then, does the Christian know that God is the ultimate cause of all that happens to him? First of all, he knows it through revelation, through the clear statements of Scripture. But he also learns it through practical experience, through answered prayer. "The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him; He will also hear their cry and save them" (Ps. 145:18,19).
It is appropriate, then, to ask God to give us our daily bread. And it is also appropriate to thank Him when He has provided it. Let us take care to acknowledge the true source of our blessings!