Jesus was asked by his disciples for some teaching on prayer. He told them not to just repeat the same prayers over and over again, and then he gave them a sample script which, sadly, many repeat over and over again.
Someone asked me recently what Jesus actually meant by, “Give us this day our daily bread.” In a world without refrigeration — though they used salt — it was probably more vital in their day to have an idea where your next meal is coming from. Especially if you were a people that was constantly on the move. This of course led the Israelites to a superstitious adoption of some of their pagan neighbors’ views that certain gods controlled certain weather and soil conditions in certain geographic territories.
But I answered the question differently. I think in our day, the equivalent consists of our prayers for health and safety. Think of how health concerns — those of ourselves and our friends and relatives — preoccupy our prayer lists. We know where our next meal is coming from. The freezer is full and the grocery store is stocked full of more food. Health concerns are often the source of our anxiety and concern. Travel — by car, rail or airplane — fills us with further worry; the accident reports in the media are simply all too vivid.
Some pastors — including recently, Andy Stanley — are somewhat frustrated by our need to be petitioning God for “traveling mercies.” Or for “a good night’s sleep.” But I think there is something in the relationship and communication equation whereby God is quite willing to listen to our request for our ongoing, daily needs to be met. It also acknowledges that all our basic necessities only happen by God’s grace, by Him who “holds all things together.”
David said he’d never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging for bread, but Jesus taught us to pray for “our daily bread.” I think our various health and safety concerns are simply the modern extension of this in a world where bread is — for now — plentiful.