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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

An Exposition of the Assembly's
Shorter Catechism

by John Flavel

Concerning Our Daily Bread.

Q. 104. What do we pray for in the fourth petition?
A. In the fourth petition, which is, [Give us this day our daily bread,] we pray that of Godís free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.

Q. 1. Why is this petition placed after the three former?
A. Because those concern immediately and generally Godís glory, in the advancement of his name, kingdom and will, which ought to be preferred to all our personal concerns; Psalm 69:9. The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up. Acts 21:13. I am ready not to be bound only, but also to die at Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Q. 2. Why is it put before the two following petitions?
A. Not for its worth, but for its order; for we can have no spiritual blessings, unless we have a natural being in this life.

Q. 3. What kind of bread is here meant?
A. Not spiritual bread, or our Lord Jesus Christ, (as some,) but corporal and temporal.

Q. 4. What is included in this word bread?
A. Not that only which we call strictly bread, but all the good things of this present life.

Q. 5. Do we hereby beg pure necessaries only?
A. No, we pray for conveniences for our comfort, as well as necessaries for our life.

Q. 6. Do we herein pray only for personal good things for our being?
A. No, we pray for civil good things for our condition, that according to our degree in the world, in which God hath placed us, we may have a convenient allowance.

Q. 7. Do we pray here for ourselves only?
A. No, but also for our charge, children, and family, that under and with us they may have the good things of this life.

Q. 8. Why do we pray to God for these good things, can we not get them ourselves, or our fellow-creatures give them to us?
A. Not without God: whatever we have of these things, they are from God; whoever be the second cause or instrument: If ourselves, God gives us ability and success to get them; if others, God inclined their hearts, and opened their hands to bestow them; Deuteronomy 8:17-18. And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of my hand hath gotten me this wealth. But thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth.

Q. 9. Why do we pray to God to give us bread?
A. Because the least crumb of bread is a free gift, and never can be merited by all we can do or suffer; Luke 17:10. So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all these things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants.

Q. 10. Why are all these things couched under the expression of bread?
A. (1.) Because bread is one of the most necessary and useful things to preserve life. (2.) Because we must not ask delicacies and dainties of God.

Q. 11. What is meant by day in our petition?
A. Either (1.) A natural day of twenty four hours; or, (2.) The day of our whole life.

Q. 12. Why do we pray for daily bread?
A. Because God must give us the mercies and good things of every day, or else we cannot have them.

Q. 13. Why should we not pray for weekly, or monthly, or yearly bread, as well as daily?
A. (1.) Because it is fit we should be still sensible of our dependence upon God. (2.) Because we do frequently pray to God, and so exert our graces, and maintain communion with him, and daily render thanks for daily favours; Psalm 55:17. Evening and morning, and at noon will I pray, and cry aloud, and he shall hear my voice.

Q. 14. What need we to pray for daily bread, when we may have stores laid up for years?
A. They that have the good things of this life need to pray this petition, as well as they that have them not. Not that they may have bread, but that it may be bread to them: for except God give his blessing upon it, bread would be ashes, and not sustenance to us; neither could all the comforts of this life do us any good; Isaiah 3:1. For behold, the Lord, thc Lord of hosts doth take away from Jerusalem, and from Judah, the whole stay of bread, and the whole stay of water. Malachi 2:1-2. And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you: if ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the Lord of hosts, I will even send a. curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings; yea, I have cursed them already, because you do not lay it to heart.

Q. 15. Why do we pray only for daily bread, or a competency, may we not pray for abundance and riches?
A. No, because riches are a great snare and temptation; Matthew 19:23-24. Then said Jesus unto his disciples, Verily I say unto you, that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven. And again I say unto you, It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. Proverbs 30:8-9. Remove far from me vanity and lies; give me neither poverty nor riches, feed me with food convenient for me: lest I be full and deny thee, and say, Who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor, and steal, and take the name of my God in vain.

Q. 16. What shall we then do with riches, if providence cast them upon us, shall we cast them away?
A. No, for some of the best of men, and greatest of Godís favourites, have lived and died rich. But, (1.) We must wean our hearts from them; Psalm 62:10. Trust not in oppression, and become not vain in robbery; if riches increase, set not your heart upon them. (2.) Be thankful for them; and, (3.) Fruitful with them in acts of piety and charity; 1 Timothy 6:17, 19. Charge them that are rich in this world, that they be not high-minded, nor trust in uncertain riches, but in the living God, who giveth us richly all things to enjoy: laying up in store for themselves a good foundation against the time to come, that they may lay hold on eternal life.

Q. 17. Wherefore is the bread called our bread?
A. Not because we are absolute lords and possessors of it, for it is Godís only; Psalm 24:1-2. The earth is the Lordís and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein. For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods. Psalm 50:10, 12. For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee, for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof. But, (1.) Because we must have a covenant right to it; and, (2.) A civil right; we must come lawfully and honestly by, and so keep the good things of this life; 2 Thessalonians 3:10. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat.

Q. 18. Having prayed for our daily bread, need we to labour and endeavour to get it?
A. Yes, we must labour in good and honest callings; Godís blessing and manís industry must concur towards the present maintenance of life; Psalm 128:1-2. Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord: that walketh in his ways. For thou shalt eat the labour of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee. Proverbs 10:4, 22. He becometh poor that dealeth with a slack hand; but the hand of the diligent maketh rich. The blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and he addeth no sorrow with it.

Q. 19. What is the first inference from it?
A. That we must not seek great matters for ourselves, neither make them the matter of prayer to God; nor the end and design of our labours and callings among men.

Q. 20. What is a second inference from hence?
A. That having food and raiment, we must be therewith content, and therefore thankful; 1 Timothy 6:8. And having food and raiment, let us be therewith content. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, In every thing give thanks.

Q. 21. What is the third inference?
A. That we ascribe not our success in the world to our own skill and industry, for the wisest and most industrious do sometimes labour in the fire, and put their gain in a bag with holes; but to Godís free donation to us, and to his blessing upon our endeavours; Genesis 33:5, 11. And he lift up his eyes, and saw the women and the children, and said, Who are those with thee? And be said, the children which God hath graciously given thy servant. Take, I pray thee, my blessing that is brought to thee, because God hath dealt graciously with me, and because I have enough. Deuteronomy 28:3. Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Ver. 6. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out.

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