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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Give us this day our daily bread

As I was preparing this entry on the Lord’s Prayer, I mistakenly thought I would be wrapping up with at most one or two brief entries. Instead, after reading Evelyn Underhill’s explanation of the concluding sections of the prayer, I find that there is much more to consider and practice. So instead of one or two brief entries, there will be several more. Here is the next in the series of reflections on the Lord's Prayer, focusing on the daily request for our “Daily Bread.”

”In the first part of the Lord’s Prayer, we are wholly concerned with God’s glory . . . In the second part, we turn from the Eternal Splendour to our earthly limitations, and bring before God our burden, neediness, and sinfulness of our state. Give us this day our daily bread.

“With this proclamation of our utter dependence, the presentation before God of the simplest and most fundamental of our needs, we pass from adoration to petition, and enter into the full paradox of Christian prayer: the unspeakable majesty and abiding perfection of the Infinite, and because of that majesty and that perfection, the importance of the claim of the fugitive, the imperfect, the finite.

‘The Heavens declare the Glory of God
Lord, I call upon thee, haste thee unto me!’

“There is a natural tendency in man to reverse this order of approach; to come before God in a spirit of heaviness, greatly concerned with his own imperfections, needs and desires—‘my soul and its shortcomings,’ ‘the world and its wants’—and defer the putting on of the garment of praise; that wedding garment which introduces us into the company of the sons (and daughters) of God and is the only possible beginning of real prayer.

“Here, Christ’s teaching and practice are decisive. First, the heavenly, then the earthly. First ascend in heart and mind to the Eternal, adore the Father, seek the Kingdom, accept the Will; and all the rest shall be added unto you. Again and again the New Testament insists on that. The contrast of the two worlds is absolute; but their interpenetration is complete. No human need, however homely, is negligible; none lies outside the glow of God”

(Abba by Evelyn Underhill, in Treasures from the Spiritual Classics, 1982, Morehouse Publishing, Harrisburg, PA, third printing , 1996, pages 37-39; a compilation of extracts from Abba, 1940, Longmans Green & Co Ltd).