2 October 2013
This is one of a series of weekly Christian reflections and prayers for the IF campaign that focuses on the theme of 'Our Daily Bread', with contributors from CAFOD, Tearfund and Christian Aid.
This week's reflection is a contribution from CAFOD.
I was recently reflecting on the Our Father, and noticed for the first time that this prayer specifically encourages us to pray not for our needs in general, but for today’s needs.
Focusing on today, and today alone, is not something I am particularly practised in. I'd hazard a guess that I am not alone in this.
‘My personal prayer time places so much focus on tomorrow.'
Any time I spend in thought seems to revolve around some distant horizon. Likewise, in my prayer I tend to ask for direction in my life, to meet my soul mate, to find a career that brings me fulfilment - and so the list goes on, endlessly spiralling into the fantasy of my future life.
All of these are genuine desires that I share hopefully - if a tad plaintively - with God.
However, I find it interesting that even my personal prayer time places so much focus on tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, rather than today - or, more particularly, this present moment.
I think this future focus is a by-product of our Western lifestyle. For example, 24-hour shopping makes anything and everything immediately available, and we don't even have to leave the comfort of our chair.
Being a citizen of a developed nation such as Britain - where all our 'needs' are on tap - there is a tendency to take them for granted, and therefore ignore them.
This lifestyle seems to have two consequences. The first is that we lose the skill of living in the present. The second is that we forget not everyone has the luxury we do.
Last year I was privileged to visit some of the communities in Sierra Leone that CAFOD partner Caritas Makeni works with.
This was an eye-opening experience, particularly in terms of meeting people for whom daily bread is not a given.
One community we visited explained that before they started working with Caritas Makeni, they could not even guarantee one meal a day for each of their 700-strong population. In addition to this, they could only afford to send half of the community’s children to school.
Food and education are basic needs that I have always just taken for granted. But at that time, when community members prayed for their daily bread, it was a literal prayer that they would have enough food that day to survive on.
These people were living out this petition in the Our Father in their daily lives because they had to - there were no guarantees.
Speaking to the community, I discovered that having worked with Caritas Makeni for some years they now had enough food for at least two meals a day for each member, as well as enough money to send all the community children to school.
This was a moving thing to hear, and a cause for joy and celebration.
'Give us this day our daily bread' does not always mean very much in a society where you can get whatever, whenever. The Our Father reminds me both to come back to the present, and to remember those who do not have what I do.
Iona Reid-Dalglish, former participant in CAFOD's 'Step into the Gap' gap year programme.
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