Give us this day our daily bread.
Last week, on February 23, the Prayer Team celebrated six years since its inception in 2015. Nearly 3,000 people have subscribed. The Prayer Team appears on numerous platforms. By God’s grace, there are four books in print. I am very grateful to God and very humbled by your encouragement and especially your prayers. I plan to continue this ministry as long as God continues to provide the inspiration. I just wanted to take a moment and say thank you. Thank you for reading the things I write. I hope they lead you to a greater understanding of God and a greater inspiration to follow Him and to share His word.
The Sacrament of Holy Unction doesn’t begin immediately with the seven Epistles, seven Gospels, and seven prayers. There are some preliminary elements to the service, including a canon of hymns that are sung, many of which are being utilized as our prayers at the end of each reflection. Following the canon, there are hymns to several of the “healing” saints of our Church, like Sts. Cosmas and Damian and St. Panteleimon. The next four reflections will be about these preliminary elements, and then we will dive into the Epistles, Gospels, and Prayers.
The very first prayers offered at the Sacrament of Holy Unction, are the Trisagion Prayers. These begin with a supplication to God: “Holy God, Holy Mighty, Holy Immortal, have mercy on us.” This prayer addresses God in Trinity, asking for mercy for us. And they end with the Lord’s Prayer.
In Matthew 6, Jesus instructs His disciples on how to pray. He warns them against heaping up empty words in prayer and encourages them to pray the Lord’s Prayer. Though it is only 54 words long, it is packed with meaning. The first two words alone, “Our Father”, encompass the two great commandments to love God and love our neighbor. In using the word “Father,” we are reminded that God loves us like a father loves his children and we are to love and obey God as a child loves and obeys his or her parent. The “our” reminds us that this journey of faith is made in the context of community. Christianity is not about “me” and “my” but about “we” and “our.”
“Thy will be done” is one of the hardest phrases of the Lord’s Prayer. If we are honest, most of us either don’t mean it, or we say it with stipulations—i.e. Thy will be done, but leave my marriage, my kids, my house, my job, and most of my life alone—in other words, “Thy will be done as long as it doesn’t conflict with ‘my will’”. It is truly an act of faith to pray “Thy will be done” with sincerity.
“Give us this day our daily bread” refers to the Old Testament and when God rained manna from heaven to feed the people of Israel during their forty years of wandering in the desert. When the people complained that they were hungry, God promised them that manna would coat the ground each morning when they woke up, enough to satisfy them for the day. They were not to take more than they needed for the day. Those who took more than they needed became sick. On Fridays of each week, a double portion would fall on the ground, so the people could gather what they needed for the Sabbath, and then they could rest on the Sabbath. (This story is recounted in Exodus 16.) The daily bread was the portion of manna that fell daily to sustain God’s people in the wilderness. They weren’t to ask for tomorrow’s portion but were to trust that today’s would-be sufficient and that there would be another portion tomorrow when they got up.
The Lord’s Prayer is part of many of our services. In every instance, we are praying for God’s will to be done and for God to give us what we need today to get through today. Back in the time of the Exodus, what was needed “today” was food. For those who are needing healing of soul and body, what’s needed for today might be healing, some good news, an opportunity to laugh, or just to be able to get through the day.
It is important to know that healing of any kind, outside of a miracle from God, does not ever happen instantly. Even something as small as a paper cut will need time to heal. While we are healing, we will always need patience and strength and usually other things as well.
I remember many years ago, a dear friend was suffering from cancer. I didn’t know how to pray for him. He was very ill and his prognosis wasn’t good. I wondered “Should I pray for a miracle? But what if he doesn’t get better?” However, I didn’t think I should pray for him to die. I asked my Spiritual Father, who helped me to understand the meaning of the Lord’s Prayer, specifically the phrase “give us this day our daily bread.” He encouraged me to pray the Lord’s Prayer and think of my friend, asking God to give to him whatever he might need to get through that day—to keep food down, to enjoy time with his family, to not be scared, to not feel nauseated, etc. Ever since, I have often thought of this phrase and asked God to give me, and others, the things we need to get through today, not looking too far ahead but focusing on the needs of today.
In the same chapter as the Lord’s Prayer, Matthew 6:34, Jesus tells us “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Let the day’s own trouble be sufficient for the day.” I’ve really worked hard over the years to put more of the focus on today when it comes to anxiety and challenges, to focus on getting through the challenges of today, and not to be anxious about things that may or may not happen tomorrow.
For those who are in need of healing, or who are struggling in any way, focus on the needs of today. And bring those needs to the Lord, particularly through this prayer, asking Him to give you the things you need to get through this day.
Our Father who art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, now and forever and to the ages of ages. Amen.
Ask God to give you the things you need on this particular day.
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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