‘Give us fresh bread today’

All through my teenage years we recited ‘The Lord’s Prayer’ in school assembly every morning (from the old King James Version, of course). But only the other day did it occur to me that the subject  matter requested of our heavenly Father is mostly spiritual and non-material in nature; namely, for:

[] his name to be revered [‘hallowed be thy name’];

[] his rule to come soon [‘thy kingdom come’];

[] his intentions be practised [‘thy will be done’]; also

[] his pardon for our failures [‘forgive us our sins’];

[] his protection from testing [‘lead us not into temptation’];

[] his rescue of us from satanic attacks [‘deliver us from evil’].

The one item that seems more down-to-earth occurs plumb in the middle of those other six petitions:

‘Give us today the food we need’ (Matthew 6:11; Luke 11:3, New Living Translation).

And while looking through a notebook from almost a decade ago I re-discovered an observation by Eugene Peterson that these two instances of the prayer contain a unique Greek adjective that has baffled translators, because it is not the normal way of saying ‘daily‘. I noticed that the NLT oscillates in both of those references between its text and its footnote. So, should we request ‘food for today or ‘food for tomorrow’? If epiousios is related to epiouse, that certainly is used of ‘the next day’ in Acts 7:26 and 16:11)! Literally, either Greek word means ‘to be upon’ or ‘ongoing’, and that hardly helps us in our research!

Manna’s weekly schedule

I decided to re-visit Exodus 16:1-36 and enjoy the story of manna in the wilderness days of the children of Israel. That helped me reach the conclusion that whatever the precise technical meaning of the Greek word epiousion, the sure intention of the prayer is a request for our heavenly Father to provide us with fresh bread. After all, left-over manna either melted on the ground in the desert sunshine or bred worms and gave off an offensive stench in one’s tent overnight.                                                 Certainly for the Israelite campers, the extra ration of manna gathered on a Friday morning stayed edible throughout that day and all of the Saturday sabbath.

Fresh light from the banks of the Nile

Peterson tells us about Professor Albert Debrunner who gave us an illustration of shopping in the time of Christ. While reading scraps of papyrus from a rubbish dump in Oxyrhynchus, a village on the banks of the Nile in Egypt, this scholar found our word in a mother’s shopping list that included chickpeas and straw. Eugene Peterson understood that the mother’s note would have conveyed to her children the message: ‘the bread must be fresh – today’s bread. Don’t let that baker sell you any stale, day-old loaves. Make sure it’s epiousion.’

[] Let’s not ever think we can get by on any of our previous studies in Scripture. Every new day’s meditation must convey to our innermost spirit fresh manna-bread of the Word {Greek logos], by the Holy Spirit’s utterance [Greek rhema].

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