By Pat Amobi Chukwuma
As we were saying the Lord’s Prayer in the church, I overheard a wretched man among the congregation exclaiming, “Give us these days our daily bread!” I encountered him outside after the church prayer and asked him, “Why did you say emphatically: Give us these days?” He looked into my eyes pitifully and replied, “Father, if I ask only for this day: what will I eat tomorrow? I want God to give me the bread I will eat for many days to come. When it finishes, I shall enter the church and ask him for bread for more days.” I couldn’t help laughing. The wretched man was confused. He said, “Please stop laughing. It is not a laughing matter. If the blind man loses the fruit he picked by the aid of his foot, is he sure that he will pick another one? Opportunity comes but once. If you want me to ask for the bread only for this day, then I shall be coming to your house to eat for the other days?” At this, I somersaulted while laughing. He was also affected by the virus of the laughter. At last I embraced him affectionately and asserted, “Do not despair. God will provide.” Instantly, I gave a little money for his daily bread. He accepted it with gratitude and said, “Thanks Sir Father. If you can give me so much like this for my daily bread, then God himself will give me in millions.” He jumped up and started dancing joyfully.
A certain anxious and pious man met me at the church exit door and asked me, “Father, is God a baker? Why do we ask him for bread only? Does he not have meat, eggs, tea, beer, malt, milk, rice, beans, fruits, and so on? If we continue to ask him for loaves of bread daily, we can suffer from malnutrition. Therefore, let us rather pray: Give us this day our balanced diet.” The two edges of my mouth nearly tore as I was laughing without punctuation. Afterwards I told him, “May the God of providence feed you with daily balanced diet. However, you have to be industrious because there is no food for a lazy man.” He shouted, “Amen!!!”
As I was about to enter the presbytery, a familiar devout woman saluted me, “Good morning father. Please, something is bordering my mind seriously. Why do we ask God always for our daily bread when the Bible says that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God? Why do we neglect the Word of God and concentrate on daily bread? No wonder there are now assorted bread industries everywhere. Is it not better to be hearers of the Word than eaters of bread?” Tears of laughter filled my two eyes as I replied, “Woman, man is a composite being. That is, he is made of body and soul. He needs bread to sustain the body. Also he needs the Word of God to nourish the soul. Therefore, bread and the Word of God are both necessary for material and spiritual growth respectively. However, the Word of God is preferable to bread.” She smiled and said, “Thank you father for clearing my ignorance. As I have eaten the Word of God in the church this morning, can you give me bread to eat before I go home because I am very hungry?” At this I remembered the saying of the Lord, “I am hungry and you gave me to eat” (Mtt.25:35). Hurriedly I entered my refectory and came out with two wraps of ‘moi-moi’ and offered them to her. She shook her head and asked, “I asked for bread and not ‘moi moi’. Don’t you have a loaf of bread?” I laughed at her and replied, “Anything edible is bread. Even millipede is daily bread for those who eat it.” With confusion in her eyes, she accepted the two wraps of ‘moi moi’ and wished me goodbye as she gladly went away. I retired into my residence to rest after the series of morning encounter and clarifications.
As we pray God to give us our daily bread, we must cooperate with divine benevolence by working hard. I have pointed out earlier that there is no food for a lazy person. You cannot lie down idly on your bed from morning to evening waiting for God to provide your daily bread. Manna falling down from heaven is now rare. No wonder St Paul strictly emphasizes: “If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat. For we hear that there are some who walk among you in disorderly manner, not working at all, but are busybodies. Now those who are such, we command and exhort through our Lord Jesus Christ that they work in quietness and eat their bread”(1 Thess. 3:10-12). We fulfill our humanity by working hard to earn our daily bread. Divine grace works on nature. God helps those who help themselves.
Our daily bread differs, depending on one’s occupation in life. Men of God pray for their daily bread by preaching for more people to come to church, hear the Word of God and offer financial and material gifts before the Altar of God. Then the ministers will convey those gifts to God through the appropriate means. Paying of tithe by the believers provides daily bread for the ministers too. One cannot minister with empty stomach. It is a common saying that a hungry man does not shout “Alleluia!” Preaching and hearing the Word of God need strength.
I went out to the streets within my residential area to interview some workers. The first person I met was a vehicle mechanic. I asked him, “Please Mr. Mechanic, what do you expect when you ask God for your daily bread? He laughed before replying. “Of course I pray for my daily bread by wishing that people’s vehicles should break down and be brought to my shop, so that I can repair them. Whenever I have no work, I stand beside the road praying charismatically that some of the cars passing by may break down.” I laughed and asked him, “Is that not a bad wish?” He replied, “God is not a child. He knows that I must get my daily bread through vehicle breakdown. I pray that your own car may break down as well.” I shouted, “God forbid!” He asserted, “If God forbids, then I will not offer any money during offertory when I come to your church; neither will I pay my tithe.” Both of us laughed uncontrollably and parted.
The medical doctors and nurses pray for their daily bread by expecting more people to fall sick and come to hospital. When they come they become patients, because they ought to be patient during their medical treatment. The doctors patiently diagnose their problems one after the other. On a certain day, I went into a busy hospital ward to pray for patients on admission. At that particular time, the doctor on duty was doing ward-round. I asked for permission to pray for the quick recovery of the patients on admission. I prayed devotedly and asked God that all the patients may be healed instantly and that sickness will no more torment anyone again. The patients unanimously shouted, “Amen!!!” The doctor and nurses started murmuring. I was confused. I asked the doctor what was wrong. He replied, “Please father, when we come to church we pray for our daily bread. Now you have come here to ask that all the patients may be healed instantly and that sickness may go to blazes. If that happens, how do we doctors and nurses get our daily bread? Please for God’s sake, revoke that prayer before you leave.” I couldn’t help laughing. The doctor told me that it is not a laughing matter. Cunningly I excused myself to go and get my Revoke Prayer Book.
Morticians ask for their daily bread by praying that more people should die and their corpses deposited in the mortuary for a long time. A certain mortician was going about convincing people that those whose remains are deposited in the mortuary have greater opportunity of going to heaven because they would be purified of their iniquities by the special acts of the morticians. According to him, the longer the bodies stay in the mortuary, the better for their souls. One day, the mortician was arrested for spreading false information. The government ordered that he should be embalmed alive and be deposited in the morgue to serve as an example. He broke down in tears, asking for clemency. At last his cry for mercy was heard. Instead of being embalmed alive, he was tied and laid between two corpses in the mortuary for seven days without food. After that he learnt his lesson. He changed his job from mortician to electrician. What an onomatopoeic change!
What does the casket markers and sellers pray for? They pray for their daily bread by asking that more people should die daily so that their families may patronize them. One of the coffin sellers was complaining of low sale. He was even calling passersby to come into his shop to buy nice caskets with inbuilt radio, television and air-condition. A passerby spat out spittle and shouted, “Idiot! Why not die yourself?” The next day, the casket seller got sad news that his two children were critically ill. He locked his casket shop and started crying. He rushed to the church to ask God to spare their lives. God asked him, “I want to take your two children so that you yourself will buy two caskets from your shop to bury them.” Crying he prayed loudly, “Please God, do not take my own children. Instead, let the two children of my landlord die.” He did not know that his landlord was behind his pew in the church. The landlord angrily shouted, “What did you say to God now? Please God, do not hear that stupid prayer. Amen!” The two sick children of the casket dealer eventually died the next day. He cried profusely and asked, “Oh, God why me?” After the burial of the two grown up children, the bereaved father changed his business from caskets to foodstuffs.
Following the precepts of the Risen Christ is the only means of obtaining our eternal daily bread. Hence, Saint Paul says, “If you are risen with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things that are above, not on earthly things. For you have died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, reveals himself, you also will be revealed with him in Glory” (Colossians 3:1-4). The Messiah himself warns, “For what advantage is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his soul?”(Luke 9:25). An Igbo adage says, “Okuko si umu ya, unu na-akpa nri, anya ufie akokwana unu.” That means to be watchful as we look for our daily bread.