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Our daily providence

3 April 2013

 market stall 

As a human race, we have made great progress in reducing abject poverty, but a lot still needs to be done. There are still too many people living in absolute poverty.

One in eight people in the world lives in hunger and two million children die as a result. Millions more face a life of lost potential and pain.

We must come together to tackle hunger and its root causes. Our planet provides enough food for everyone, yet people still go hungry. Our Heavenly Father gives us enough bread to live on, but we do not share.

Jesus led a fervent prayer life. The Gospel writers mention numerous occasions when he withdraws to pray. He must have made quite an impression on his disciples.

Any understanding of prayer they picked up from contemporary religious leaders might have seemed inadequate. It was not lack of great examples either. The Old Testament with which they were familiar is full of them. Books like Psalms and Isaiah are, in the main, prayers.

Yet despite this great tradition, they did not feel confident in prayer. It must have been Jesus’s unique prayer life that shook their confidence. 

  • Providence is a daily occurrence. God does not give us bread once and for all, but daily.'

The model prayer he teaches them comprises (1) the worship of God, (2) the search for his will, (3) the reliance on his providence, (4) forgiveness, (5) salvation and (6) the proclamation of his sovereignty.

Just like with the Mosaic Laws, which he reduces to loving God and our neighbour, he does the same with the numerous prayers of great intercessors, from Abraham to the Virgin Mary.

Providence is a daily occurrence. God does not give us bread once and for all, but daily. The implication being that we must rely on him every day.

Like the Holy Communion, it is both physical and spiritual. As we grow in body and spirit our needs change, and God adapts our food accordingly.

It is given to us collectively not individually. Give us, not me, our daily bread. There is a sense of sharing it with others. This attitude must guide our behaviour.

Hence, whether adversity affects me personally, or you, we must be in solidarity with one another. And when it is absent, we must forge it. Whether homelessness and poverty affect people in the UK, in Haiti, in Afghanistan or in the DRC, they concern us all. 

The danger, of course, is confusing God's providence with magic, requiring little effort from us. For people in poverty, this can be disastrous. This heresy can fuel passivity.

The wealthy, however, face a different challenge. Providence may appear to them irrelevant, in all honesty.

James's advice (1:9) here comes in handy: 'believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation - since they will pass away like a wild flower.'

Bandi Mbubi, founder of CongoCalling.org, director of the Manna Society, a centre for the homeless in South London, and trustee of Church Action on Poverty



God, food of the poor;
Christ our bread,
give us a taste of the tender bread
from your creation’s table;
bread newly taken
from your heart’s oven,
food that comforts and nourishes us.
A fraternal loaf that makes us human
joined hand in hand,
working and sharing.
A warm loaf that makes us a family;
sacrament of your body,
your wounded people.

Prayer of workers in community soup kitchens in the shanty towns of Lima, Peru

From Bread of Tomorrow, edited by Janet Morley


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