Bread for the affections

It’s true that the human affections need a tender touch—to awaken desires and aspirations that stabilize the emotions, satisfy the deepest longings, and meet our every need. Christ Jesus employed the grace of God to accomplish this awakening. He did it by touching base with the commonest human needs while teaching the most fundamental spiritual lessons. He did it with parables. And I’ve been so delighted recently to realize how Jesus tenderly reached and uplifted the human affections through the prayer that continues to be prayed every day by people throughout the world—the Lord’s Prayer (see Matthew 6:9–13). 

Think of it: After opening the prayer with acknowledging and honoring God as our Father, the Lord’s Prayer has us asking God to govern us and to allow His will to be done in our lives—and then it has us asking God to give us our daily bread, which surely was intended to mean much more than simply asking God to meet our most basic needs for human subsistence. However, people can get pretty emotional when their basic needs are not met, so asking them to turn their lives over to God—a very spiritual trust—could be hard to take if there weren’t some assurance that essential human needs would be cared for in the process. Being anchored in this assurance, the petitioner’s heart is gently made ready for the rest of the prayer, which requires vital changes in human character—being willing to forgive as a requirement for being forgiven, being led away from and delivered from temptation’s pull, and then giving all glory to God. 

Jesus most certainly knew that just having bread on the table would not enable a person to fulfill those spiritual requirements. Actually, people in the most desperate conditions often find that it’s bread of another nature—the grace of God working in their hearts and minds—that helps them rise above and conquer their dire circumstances. In her spiritual interpretation of the Lord’s Prayer (see Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, pp. 16–17), Mary Baker Eddy recognizes this: For “Give us this day our daily bread,” she gives this rendering: “Give us grace for to-day; feed the famished affections.” And earlier in the same chapter, “Prayer,” she wrote, “What we most need is the prayer of fervent desire for growth in grace, expressed in patience, meekness, love, and good deeds” (p. 4).

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December 7, 2015

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