It was a time of uncertainty for all Americans. Times had been good. Prosperity was not just around the corner; for many it had arrived. Not only was there a chicken in every pot, there was a stove under each of those pots. But through the summer the signs of economic collapse were evident to those who would look. In October, the stock market took a nosedive. By December people were talking about a serious recession. People were losing jobs. Home foreclosures were up. The Christmas retail numbers were the worst in many years. Even in a season when people normally give to charities that provide food to the needy, donations were down, and utilization was up. It was not a good time.
The people were homeless. They lived in their automobiles, if they were lucky enough to have one. They packed all their meager belongings and moved to where there were supposed to be jobs. But because everyone was moving to where there were supposed to be jobs, there were no more jobs. People stood on street corners and in parks, showing signs asking for a job, or just a handout. They couldn’t go home. They had spent all they had to move, and there was nothing to move back to, anyway. The soup kitchens and homeless shelters were not sufficient for the numbers of newly homeless people. It was not a good time.
While that first paragraph was written with 1929 in mind, it could also apply to 2008. The second paragraph may be about the dust bowl era, but some might also see today in it. It also could apply to poorer parts of the United States, or the world, at almost any time. There are people, even in times of prosperity, that don’t know whether they will have a meal today, much less the rest of the week.
Americans and many Europeans have forgotten what it was like (if we ever knew it), when the next meal was purchased at the grocery store or the stalls that day. Western culture, and even that of many previously “backward” nations, has led us to believe that we have a right to have a week’s worth of meals in the house, unless we choose to eat at a restaurant where we can choose from a wider menu of meals. Yet even in times like those described, there are people among those who are most seriously effected by the economic downturn, who consider that things are no different today than they were yesterday.
The people in the Middle East about 2,000 years ago would never understand this culture. People who earned a wage got paid by the day, and each day. They counted on the daily wage to buy the daily food. Thus when Jesus taught his disciples to pray, he taught them to say, “Give us this day our daily bread.” (Matt 6:11) We need to rely on God on a daily basis.
The faithful people are those that believe that God did not promise our monthly bread. Whether I have much or have little, it comes from God. Life is short. It may be shorter than we think. A full larder does not guarantee a next meal. Maybe we should be praying for our daily bread. If God gives us our bread for today, at least we know we are alive to eat it. It could be that a prayer for daily bread is more a prayer for receiving the day, because God’s people know that he will give us the bread.