Give us this day our daily bread

The coronavirus pandemic is having a massive financial impact on the world. Governments are borrowing very large sums of money in order to help their people and keep their economies going. Businesses, both large and small, are suffering and some may never reopen. Many people are likely to lose their jobs, with far-reaching consequences for them and their families. Britain’s billionaires have lost £54 billion in the past two months. At the other end of the social scale more people than ever are now dependent on food banks to feed their families. At the end of December 2019, the total personal debt in Britain was £225 billion, the equivalent of £4300 for every adult. Now, because of the virus, personal debt has significantly increased.

The impact, however, is even greater in the Developing World. The World Bank estimates that 1.4 billion people worldwide normally live on under a $1.25 a day and another 2.5 billion people live on less than $2 a day. In Sub-Saharan Africa nearly 75% of the population fall into this category. We have a doctor friend who works in a rural Christian hospital in Uganda where the government has imposed a very strict lockdown to stop the virus spreading. This has had a devastating impact on the poorest people who are struggling to buy food and, also, on seriously sick people and expectant mothers who can’t get to the hospital.

The Lord’s Prayer, which Jesus taught his disciples, is very realistic and relevant to us all. The prayer begins with the words “Our Father in heaven.” As good human fathers care for their children and provide for them, so God is the One who provides for us. One of the petitions, which in normal times we hardly notice, is especially meaningful in hard times and for those facing crushing poverty – “Give us this day our daily bread.”

A few years ago, the 4-year-old daughter of a good friend of ours was taken into foster care. Her foster parents noticed that, before each meal, the little girl’s lips were moving as she spoke silently. They asked her what she was saying. She said she was praying to God, thanking him for her food and for the kind people who were looking after her. Praying, too, for her Mummy and her brothers and sisters. The foster parents were deeply moved and asked the little girl to pray out loud for them all at every meal. Through that little girl they became conscious of God, their heavenly Father, in a new way. They said, “she has changed our lives.”


Praying for all those in authority

Life for the first Christians was very difficult because they experienced great persecution. Jesus was crucified on the authority of Pilate, the Roman Governor. The apostle Paul was imprisoned and then executed by the Roman authorities. The Roman emperor, Nero, falsely blamed Christians for the great fire of Rome in AD64 and commanded that many of them should be put to death by burning, or in the arena, or by crucifixion. Christians were persecuted because they refused to worship the Roman emperor and say, “Caesar is Lord!” They were not disloyal citizens, but could only worship God and affirm “Jesus is Lord!”

Yet, despite the appalling treatment they experienced from the governing authorities, the apostles encouraged all Christians to respect the civil authorities, to pay their taxes, and even to pray for them. Paul wrote, “I urge that requests, intercessions and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Saviour, who wants all people to be saved and come to know the truth.”

In the 21st century we need to pray for those who govern the nations. We are living in days of great instability. Governments and rulers are being overthrown and nations that possess military power are using that power more widely than ever before. People have great, and often unrealistic, expectations of what their governments can do for them. How should we pray for those who rule over us?

Pray that they will rule justly and not oppress their people. In some countries many people are arrested and never seen again. Sometimes soldiers are used to kill those who protest against injustice. It is important for all who have authority to fear the living God and remember that one day they will have to stand before God and be judged. He will deal with them justly.

Pray that they will rule morally and uphold God’s laws. Today some rulers are encouraging immorality by their own lives and by the laws they pass. God cannot be mocked. The Roman Empire was never defeated by their enemies, but was destroyed by its own inner moral corruption.

Pray that they will continue to allow the freedom to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ. He is the King of kings and is able to save us all from death, destruction and despair.