THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 104. What do we pray for in the fourth petition?

ANSWER: In the fourth petition, which is, "Give us this day our daily bread," we pray, That of God's free gift, we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.


Q. 1 What does our Catechism mean by bread in this petition?

A. It explains it to be the good things of this life.

Q. 2. What do you understand by the good things of this life?

A. Not only meat and drink; but clothes to cover us, houses to shelter us, sleep to refresh us, and the like; which are called "things needful to the body," James 2:16.

Q. 3. May not spiritual mercies, or food to our souls, be intended by the bread here mentioned?

A. No; the petition respects temporal mercies, or the good things of the present life.

Q. 4. How do you prove, that the good things of this life, and not spiritual mercies, are intended in this petition?

A. From the completeness, and compendiousness of the Lord's prayer; for, it cannot be supposed, that, in a prayer so complete, the good things of this life would be quite omitted; or, that in a prayer so compendious, spiritual mercies would, without necessity, be repeated in this petition, when the other petitions are so full of them.

Q. 5. Why are these good things called by the general name of BREAD?

A. Because, though bread be the most common, yet it is the most useful and necessary support of natural life; and therefore called the staff, or stay of bread, Isa. 3:1.

Q. 6. Why called daily bread?

A. Both because our need of the supports of nature recurs daily; and likewise to teach us contentment with our present allowance in providence, Phil. 4:11.

Q. 7. For what quantity of daily bread, or of the good things of this life, may we lawfully pray?

A. For a competent portion of them.

Q. 8. What is meant by a competent portion?

A. Such a measure of temporal comforts, as our necessities may require, or will tend to our good, Prov. 30:8 -- "Give me neither poverty nor riches: feed me with food convenient for me."

Q. 9. What is imported in our praying, that God would give us this competent portion?

A. It imports our desire to receive it of God's free gift.

Q. 10. What do we acknowledge, when we pray to receive temporal comforts of God's free gifts?

A. We thereby acknowledge, that in Adam, and by our own sin, we have forfeited our rights to all the outward blessings of this life, and deserve to be wholly deprived of them by God."[189]

Q. 11. How does it appear that we have, by sin, forfeited our right to outward blessings?

A. It appears from this, that we have thereby forfeited our life itself, Gen. 2:17; and, therefore, by necessary consequence, all the supports of it, Jer. 5:25.

Q. 12. Why do we say, Give us this day?

A. Because if God shall be pleased to afford us the necessary supplies of each day, when it comes, we ought not to be anxiously solicitous about tomorrow, Matt. 6:34.

Q. 13. May we not lawfully pray for what respects the future condition of ourselves, or families, in this world?

A. Yes; if God shall continue us, or them, in life, then, in this case, we may lawfully beg of him, that neither we, nor they, may ever be destitute of what is necessary for our glorifying God, in the respective stations, in which he has, or may place us while in it, Gen. 28:20-22.

Q. 14. Does God's giving us our daily bread, exclude the use of means for the obtaining of it?

A. No; for, "if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel," 1 Tim. 5:8.

Q. 15. May we not then ascribe our daily bread to our own diligence and industry?

A. No; because it is God who gives us ability to pursue our respective callings, and it is he who succeeds our lawful endeavours in them, Deut. 8:17, 18 -- "Thou shalt remember the Lord thy God; for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth."

Q. 16. Why do we say, Give us our daily bread? why do we call it OURS?

A. Because whatever measure or proportion of outward blessings, God in his providence, thinks fit we should receive, is properly OURS, whether it be more or less, 1 Tim. 6:8 -- "Having food and raiment, let us therewith be content."

Q. 17. Since both the godly and the wicked have their daily provision from God, what difference is there as to the manner in which the one and the other hold their outward comforts?

A. There is a wide difference as to the manner in which the godly and the wicked hold their outward comforts, whether we consider their respective right and title; their present enjoyment; or their future expectation.

Q. 18. What is the difference as to their respective right and title?

A. The wicked have only a civil and common right; but the godly have, besides this, a spiritual and covenant right also, 1 Tim. 4:8.

Q. 19. What is the difference as to their present enjoyment?

A. The godly have God's blessing on what they presently enjoy; but the wicked his curse. In this respect, "a little that a righteous man hath, is better than the riches of many wicked," Psalm 37:16.

Q. 20. What is the difference as to their future expectation?

A. The godly have the good things of this world, as pledges of the far better things of another; but the wicked have them as their whole pay; for they have their portion in this life, Psalm 17:14.

Q. 21. For what should we pray in order to have the comfortable use of the good things of this life, which God may confer upon us?

A. That we may enjoy his blessing with them.

Q. 22. Why is the blessing of God necessary to all our outward comforts?

A. Because without this none of them could reach the end for which they are used: our food could not nourish us, nor our clothes warm us, nor medicines, however skilfully applied, give any relief from our ailments, Job 20:22, 23.

Q. 23. Will God's blessing make the meanest fare answer the end of comfortable nourishment?

A. Yes; as is evident from the example of Daniel, and the other three children of the captivity, who desired to be proved ten days, with no better cheer than pulse and water: "And at the end of ten days, their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh, than all the children which did eat the portion of the king's meat," Dan. 1:12, 15.

Q. 24. Why do we pray in the plural number, Give us?

A. To express a concern for the good things of this life to the rest of our fellow-creatures, as well as to ourselves, 1 Kings 8:35-40.


[189] Larger Catechism, Question 193.
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