By Len van Heest
A couple weeks ago during our Wednesday Lenten series, Pastor Doug had a wonderful sermon on this phrase. Our Father in Heaven is generous.
When I grew up, my grandparents and my partners frequently offered this prayer before we would eat our meals. We prayed at the beginning and end of every meal:
“Our Lord and Shepherd, we thank You from the depths of our heart,
in our poverty and in abundance.
When many people eat their bread in tears,
You have feed us generously provide us substance by your Holy Word.
Oh Lord, give that our souls do not cling
to the things of life that will fade way,
but help us to obey Your bidding,
that we may dwell with You, our eternal King.”
I’m sorry that the rhyme is lost in translation. This prayer became popular during the Second World War. The Nazis occupied the Netherlands since May of 1940 and ravished the county of all useful materials. All the food grown in the farmland went to the Front.
During the end of 1944, the allies invaded France, liberated the southern part of the country, and raced towards Berlin. However, the provinces of the north, including the large cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Utrecht remained in Nazi control until Germany surrendered.
In these cities, 80,000 of the Jewish population, neighbors, friends, and family were gone. The men worked in factories in Germany, the older boys were conscripted to the Nazi army.
By November, the situation became dire and disparate, even for the Germans, whose supply lines were cut-off as the allies freed the western portion of Germany. The inhabitants ate anything they could. Any vegetation was gone. People ate tulip bulbs and roots. Books and interior walls of house were being burnt for heat. By December first, 7,000 people died of starvation and cold.
The Germans, surrounded on all sides, and fearing chaos arranged for the British to airlift food to the cities, but this lasted for only a short while. May 5 was the official liberation, but the Allies didn’t come until May 7.
My father, one of ten children and my mother, one of seven children, did not see one of their immediate family members perish in those years. My older uncles when into hiding and into the resistance. My mother’s family moved from Rotterdam to Amsterdam a year before the war, a year before the Nazis and allies leveled the heart of the city.
Thus, the concept to pray, to thank, Him for our daily bread, has still today, a profound importance. When I grew up, no food ever was left on our plates, no food ever was returned to the kitchen. The blessing of God’s provision was not to be taken lightly.
When I clean-up the kitchen after my family is done with dinner, I often find myself cleaning off my kids plates – those few extra green beans just can’t go into the disposal.
How many other blessings do we take for granted in our abundance? How much of our holy substance that God feeds us with do we take for granted in our freedom?
Everything we have comes from our good Father in Heaven.