Jesus’ disciples asked him to teach them how to pray and from that comes what we call the Lord’s Prayer. But Jesus did not give it like a command saying that is the form that prayer must always take. He continues on to give us a picture of what prayer is like. He paints a scene of a person caught unprepared and in need so he runs to his neighbor for help. Our person has an unexpected visitor and his own cupboard is bare. The friend who has already retired, does not inconvenience himself to earn love from his neighbor but responds out of love. God does not give snakes when we ask for fish and he does not give us a scorpion when we ask for an egg. We are free to ask for our daily bread, that which we really need, because he loves us and we are not bothering him.
I worked in a former famine relief camp when we first went to Kenya where there were 5,000 starving people living in cardboard huts around our station. A time of famine came and people came to our door begging. I was down to sharing my potatoes that we had hauled from down-country. I vividly remember a little old lady spitting at me as I explained that the potato could be put in water and boiled and mashed if necessary for her baby. Her response was that she did not eat rocks. She wanted milk! She suspected I was hiding the good stuff necessary for a mug of chai.
The biblical story focuses on the need of the moment, the guests are at the man’s house now and he needs food. How often do I spin tales in my mind about the problems I suspect I will have tomorrow when for sure, tomorrow may never come. How often does God give me a potato but I am so focused on wanting milk that I distain the gift I’m given.
Jesus is walking to the cross but he focuses on the needs of the people he meets on the way. We too are walking through Lent, walking through the trials that we are facing us today. Tomorrow is a different set of problems. May we trust that God is giving us fish and eggs even when life seems harsh and tedious, more like potatoes. May we have eyes to see the gifts of the day and may we be deep in prayer for those who are overwhelmed with the challenges of war, of disease, and poverty. Lord have mercy. “Give us each day our daily bread. Lead us not into the temptation of greed and guard us from an attitude of ingratitude!