Heidelbasics: Brief Weekly Reflections on the Heidelberg Catechism by Rev. David Fagrey, Pastor of Grace Reformed Church of Rapid City, SD
125. What is the fourth petition?
“Give us this day our daily bread;” that is, be pleased to provide for all our bodily need, so that we may thereby acknowledge that You are the only fountain of all good, and that without Your blessing neither our care and labor, nor Your gifts, can profit us; that we may therefore withdraw our trust from all creatures and place it alone in You.
To ask our heavenly Father to give us our “daily bread” is to ask Him to provide for “all our bodily need” (cf. Gen. 3:19; Lev. 26:26). Christ “comprehends under the term bread all temporal blessings, and such as are necessary for the sustenance of life, as food, clothing, health, civil peace,” etc., in order to “restrain our desires, and teach us to pray only for such things as are necessary for the support of life [acquired by lawful labor, 1 Thess. 3:10], and for the service of God and our neighbor” (Ursinus, 643-44). This petition is based on Proverbs 30:8-9: “Give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food You prescribe for me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.” “And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content” (1 Tim. 6:8).
There are three main reasons why our Father in heaven wants us to ask Him to provide for all our physical needs.
First, He wants us to ask that we might daily know and praise Him to be the only source of all good. “He gives food to all flesh” (Ps. 136:25). “The eyes of all look expectantly to You, and You give them their food in due season. You open Your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing” (Ps. 145:15-16; cf. 104:14-15, 27-28; James 1:17). “He gave us rain from heaven and fruitful seasons, filling our hearts with food and gladness” (Acts 14:17). “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31; cf. 1 Tim. 4:4-5). Yes, the wicked enjoy God’s blessings, but without giving Him thanks (Dan. 5:23).
Second, we are to ask in order to confess to Him our daily need for His blessing so we can enjoy our food with thankfulness. “He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna… that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD” (Deut. 8:3); “it is He who gives you power to get wealth” (Deut. 8:17). “In His hand is the life of every living thing” (Job 12:10). “Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it; unless the Lord guards the city, the watchmen stays awake in vain” (Ps. 127:1). “God desires that we should use His gifts, not as thieves and robbers, but cheerfully and with thanksgiving” (Ursinus).
Third, we are to ask so that we might daily learn to place our trust in Him alone. Asking God for our daily bread helps us to fight against our natural sinful tendency to trust in “the creature rather than the Creator” (Rom. 1:25). “Cast your burden on the LORD, and He will sustain you” (Ps. 55:22). “Trust in Him at all times… if riches increase, do not set your heart on them” (Ps. 62:8, 10). Do not “trust in uncertain riches but in the living God, who gives us richly all things to enjoy” (1 Tim. 6:17). “Therefore, do not worry, … for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things” (Matt. 6:32). Our heavenly Father has many instruments by which He provides for all our bodily need (cf. 2 Chron. 16:12-13). Therefore, let us put our ultimate trust in Him, not in His instruments.