My pastor is preaching through the Lord's Prayer this month. As he spoke about "Give us this day our daily bread" this past week, he pointed out that the pronoun is plural. Even if we eat alone--which I usually do--we are not truly alone. There have been many people--farmers, truckers, millers, bakers, packagers, supermarket clerks--who have contributed to my morning bagel. So when I pray "Give us this day our daily bread" I am praying a prayer that not only supplies me with food, but also supplies many others with jobs through which God provides their daily bread.
In her newest book, Abundant Simplicity, Jan Johnson, one of our Pray! authors, shares a story that illustrates a similar point:
"Once while eating at a restaurant, my friend Sandra prayed aloud a prayer that influenced how I see dining. From a liturgical background, she found “winging” it in prayer a different experience. But looking at our appetizing Cobb salads, she dived in: “Thank you, God, for the people who planted this lettuce. [Pause. I pictured farm workers in the beautiful Salinas Valley John Steinbeck made famous.] Thank you for the soil and rain that helped it grow. [Pause. I could picture that.] Thank you for the people who picked it. [Pause. I began thinking about how farm workers in California used to have to use a short handled scythe and hands got cut off. So I’m thanking God for tools and farm labor laws.] Thank you for the people who packaged it. [Pause. I picture women in packing houses wearing hairnets.] Thank you for the grocer who set it out for someone to buy. [I thought about our Hispanic produce manager who chooses such good quality produce.] Thank you for the server. [Pause. I reminded myself to find out that young man’s name so I could call him by name.] Amen.
When I opened my eyes, the salad looked very different. I saw that a lot of people had served me well. I was thankful. I’ve since prayed in the manner she did many times because it reminds me of the simple yet intricate way that food comes to us on our table."
I don't know about you, but I suspect sometimes that God might become bored by the repetition of my table grace prayers. But these thoughts from my pastor and from Jan have inspired me to both more creative and less self-centered praying.