In the Lord’s prayer in Matthew 6, Christ gives his church 6 petitions to pray. The first 3 are rather lofty petitions: “Hallowed be your name”, “Your kingdom done”, “Your will be done” (Mt 6:9-10). They are, as we might expect, prayers exalting the name and kingdom of God. This is, after all the purpose of the Christian: to exalt God’s name, to spread his kingdom, to focus on God!
However, after these petitions are commanded, Jesus leaves the focus off of God, and gives three more petitions to pray for ourselves: “Give us…”, “Forgive us…”, “Lead us not…”. This first petition especially is focused on one’s physical needs: “Give us this day our daily bread” (6:11). What a simple prayer: God, provide what I need! It’s focus almost seems selfish!
However, in this simple prayer for bread, Jesus teaches us something rather important: namely, that God isn’t too spiritual to care about the physical, tangible, real things in our lives; God really cares about it all. He acknowledges and wants to provide your every need!
Frederick Bruner brings in further insight on this verse:
The Lord’s Prayer teaches us that it is not selfish to pray about physical, social, and personal needs. It is in fact Jesus’ command that we pray for these things…
The prayer for bread in this petition should be allowed to remain, first of all, a prayer for bread. At times in the church’s exposition this bread has been turned into spiritual bread (cf…Augustine…and Jerome, who believe that here we are praying especially for him who says, “I am the living Bread”). It is possible to be more spiritual than God. Why would Jesus who fed the five thousand not want us to pray for the feeding of our six billion? And while Jesus says that man does not live by bread alone, he is too realistic to say that man does not live by bread at all. We may pray, certainly, for spiritual bread, but here…we pray first for physical bread for physical people. (Christbook 1, 305-306)
I have heard from other commentators as well, that this petition is primarily for the “super-substantial” bread (from the Latin Vulgate translation), the Lord’s Supper. And while the Lord’s Supper is important, Bruner is quite right to highlight the fact that our Lord cares about the physical bread, and the physical people! He doesn’t just care about the spiritual.
It is important that we not be so spiritual that we miss the emphasis here: God cares about your paycheck. He cares about your children. He cares about your house. He cares about your physical state. And he wants to provide for you, if only you ask!
Don’t be more spiritual than God!