Word on Wednesday – by John Mason
‘Bread’… November 12, 2014
Give us this day our daily bread. With this petition in the Lord’s Prayer we see that God is fully aware of our daily need for physical food to sustain our bodies. Jesus reminds us that we are ultimately dependent on God for this ongoing provision. Psalm 104 speaks of the whole of the animate creation looking to God for food in due season (104:27). Jesus echoes this theme, when he later says that God, our Father, knows our physical needs (Luke 12:30f). (1)
As a side-note, this is the reason God’s people have made a practice of saying ‘thank you’ to God before a meal. It is something we can do even when we invite for a meal people who may not be believers. A simple comment that this is our practice often opens provides an opportunity for conversation about the gospel.
To pray for daily bread is also asking for spiritual food for our soul. All of us need the ongoing sustenance of God’s Word in our lives. Without it, our relationship with God dries up and we follow our own devices and desires (as the confession in the Book of Common Prayer puts it).
Prayer. All this brings us to a question about prayer: ‘Can God, whom we call Father, be trusted to hear our prayers?’ Jesus, anticipating this, responded with a parable known as ‘The Friend at Midnight’ (Luke 11:5-8).
The parable captures village life in Jesus’ world where hospitality was an unwritten law. It compelled a man to get out of bed, no matter the hour, to assist a neighbor in need. If he did not provide aid, he would be shamed, bringing dishonor to the whole community. ‘Can you imagine,’ Jesus was asking, ‘anyone saying to a neighbor in need, even at midnight, ‘Don’t disturb me, get lost’? His listeners’ unspoken answer would have been, “No!”
The honor of God’s name. Another key to understanding this parable is found in the words usually translated, “his persistence” (11:8). In using these words, English translations are following one that dates back to the twelfth century. Recent commentators have pointed out the original word is better translated, sense of shame, for the word has the idea of avoidance of shame. If we follow the flow of the personal pronouns, his, in the parable, we see that the focus of the parable is not on the man knocking at the door, but the sleeper in bed.
This is not a parable about persistence. Rather it is a parable about God and the honor of his name. It takes up the words in the Lord’s Prayer, “Hallowed be Thy name” (Luke 11:2). Jesus is telling us that because of his very nature, God does listen to our prayers, no matter how great or small, no matter the time of day or night.
If God ignored our prayers, his name would be shamed. It is a matter of his honor and integrity that he hears and answers them. He will no more ignore the prayers of his people than a good mother will ignore her crying baby.
God, ‘The Friend at Midnight’ can be trusted to hear and answer our prayer for our daily bread.
John G. Mason