I used to hate the sound of a baby crying. When my wife Rebecca gave birth to Josh four years ago, he cried all the time. We hardly ever slept. Many nights before his first birthday, Josh would only sleep if one of us would carry him as we walked. Sometimes he cried even though nothing was wrong. We would change him, feed him, burp him, put him down, pick him up, spin in circles. Nothing would calm the child. As he grew, he became better at communicating his needs, and now only cries in times of deep distress, like if his sister has taken one of his toys.
As you can imagine, I began to hate any TV show, radio broadcast, movie, or advertisement with the sound of a crying baby. “Don’t I get enough of this without them playing it on TV?” I would yell at the screen.
Then two years ago when Anna was born, she was unable to breathe. Her little lungs were full of fluid which she didn’t have the strength to expel. Anna didn’t cry. Not for lack of effort. Every moment was filled with her excruciating efforts to breathe… And to cry… But she couldn’t cry. Nurses worked frantically, machines beeped, I was asked to stay out of the way, Rebecca was anxious and unable to see because of the sheet drawn above her belly, but the baby wouldn’t cry. Rebecca asked how the baby was and I said, “She’s doing great.” But in reality, I was scared to death because my baby girl wouldn’t cry.
They took Anna to the NICU, where she was hooked up to feeding and breathing tubes.
And for a few days, I dreamed of the moment when Anna would cry.
The first half of the Lord’s Prayer addresses the magnificence and omnipotence of God. “Father in Heaven. Hallowed be Your name. Your Kingdom Come.”
But one little line had confused me since I was a child. Now it serves as a pivot in this prayer. As a child I struggled to understand why we prayed for bread at bedtime. Lately I have come to see great meaning in this simple request: “Give us this day our daily Bread.” This little line moves us from the magnificence of God to the neediness of man.
In the ancient world, bread was essential to survival. He who had bread lived. Asking for bread daily is not asking for something we would like. It is asking for something we need, something essential to survival. And asking God for that bread indicates an understanding that, aside from God’s provision, I might not have bread to eat today. It is important that we understand that daily bread is so much more than just bread. We have the opportunity to bring any need before our Heavenly Father, with the understanding that we are not speaking about wants, or about those wants we mistake for needs.
Day by day the manna fell;
O to learn this lesson well!
Still, by constant mercy fed,
give me, Lord, my
— Josiah Conder
When we ask God for daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer, we acknowledge that there are things we need that are only gained through God’s provision. God is like a father waiting for His child’s first sound. When we say, “God, I need bread” or “God, there are things I need which I am incapable of providing without your help,” we take a big breath and cry out to our Heavenly Father. He hears our cries and meets our needs, because there is something special about the sweet sound of a silent child crying out for the first time.
As we realize the nature and weight of our sin compared to the immense power and holiness of God, we realize that the standards for eternal life with God are far greater than we could ever achieve by our own efforts. And we cry out, “God, I need bread.” We need a bread that can be broken for us, a bread that can bear our sins, a bread that can make us holy and pure before the mighty Maker of the universe.
God hears the sweet cries of His children, and in the person of Jesus Christ declares, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry” (John 6:35).
Our daughter Anna did learn to cry within a few days of her birth, and my opinions have shifted since those events. I no longer dread the sound of crying babies. Instead, I have gained a deep appreciation for the sweet sound of a small child calling for help. The cries of infants signify breath and life, and act as a call to parents who can meet that child’s deepest needs. Every 2 a.m. wail reverberates with a simple truth of the gospel: “I need.” We all need. We need bread. “Give us, Lord, Our Daily Bread.”
—Lieutenant Mike McGee is the corps officer for The Salvation Army in Rock Hill, SC.