Did anyone else have a grandparent or relative who had these paintings hanging somewhere in their house? The portrait on the left is called Gratitude, and the one on the right is called Grace. The one of the man was actually a photograph taken in 1918 in Minnesota and was later converted into a colorized oil painting by the photographer’s daughter. It is one of the most reproduced images in the 20th Century. After it became popular, a Christian bookstore owner in Illinois felt it needed a compliment, so a photograph of a woman was taken in a similar pose in the 1960s. They were typically sold together, which is why you may have seen one, the other, or both on a wall somewhere.
I used to stare at these images, which were so simple and yet so profound. There is humility in them and also some great symbolism. The one of the man reminds me to always give thanks for what God has provided. In the heart of the great depression, a bowl of soup and a loaf of bread would have been a wonderful luxury. It reminds me to be thankful regardless of how meager a meal might be. The portrait of the woman was a reminder of something we find in the Old Testament but repeated in the words of Jesus when He quotes Deuteronomy 8:3:
…man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD.
If I were to ask you to list the things you need physically, relationally, or materially, I’m sure you could quickly come up with a list. Yesterday we began to develop that list. The challenge isn’t to find things that we feel we need but determining if it is a need or a want. We have trouble limiting that list, not coming up with it.
What if I were to ask you to list what you needed spiritually? What would make that list for you? Now, we have trouble making a list at all. Ask yourself, “What do I need spiritually?” When Jesus taught us to pray, He wasn’t simply addressing our physical, relational, or material needs. He uses the word “Bread” to include our needs spiritually. We do not live by bread alone, for if we do, we really aren’t truly living. But our physical “bread list” is so much more robust and obvious than our “spiritual bread” list. At this point, I would love to answer that question for you and give you a 12 point spiritual wish list you can begin praying for, but I am too occupied trying to create a list for myself. What I do know is that I am a terrible judge of what I really need spiritually. Fortunately, God is a great judge, and He has already acted to provide me a lot of my spiritual bread in His Word, the Bible.
Take a look at the portrait of the woman. She isn’t praying over a piece of bread. She is saying her prayers over the Bible. Notice something else. Do you see the glasses? I’m not trying to be ageist or anything, but I am thinking those are reading glasses. I’m pretty sure she is older than me, and I already need reading glasses, so let’s go with that for the moment. The glasses are off and resting on the pages of scripture because she just finished reading. There is food sitting on the table, but her spiritual food is what came first. She is taking in spiritual nourishment before taking in physical nourishment. Before you begin making your list of what you think you need spiritually, let me encourage you to begin taking in the spiritual nourishment God already provides. Pastor Chris mentioned Our Daily Bread as a great resource to get started. I couldn’t agree more. If you don’t already have a reading plan for engaging the scriptures, please use this convenient online tool.
Now, I know that we seem to be cheating here. We invited you on a 40-Day prayer journey, and now we are trying to sneak in Bible reading as well. Yeah. We are a bit sneaky. But an important aspect of praying the way Jesus taught us to pray is to look at the Bible because the prayer itself comes from the Word of God. We want you to begin to include it in your daily time with God. As you do, you will learn how to begin praying the scriptures you read. We’ll dig more into that tomorrow but get started today in taking in the spiritual nourishment you are asking for when you pray – Give us today our daily bread!