A little while back, I was guest preaching at a church. As was their custom, the elders met with the guest preacher before the worship service to pray. Which is always nice. It’s good to start off with prayer. As one of the elders was praying for the service, he prayed for blessings of manna to come down. That struck me as interesting. Blessings of manna. What exactly did that mean.
I’ve been pondering that for the last little while. What does it mean to pray for the blessings of manna?
First of all, what in the world is manna? That takes us to the Old Testament of the Bible. Back in the book of Exodus, Moses led the people of Israel out of Egypt. God led them by His mighty hand, parted the Red Sea and had them travel to the Promised Land. While they were in the wilderness, God fed them each day with bread. The bread would appear each morning like dew on the grass. And the people would collect just enough of this manna each morning for the rest of the day (Save for the day before the Sabbath. They were allowed to collect enough for two days). Manna itself literally means “What is this stuff falling from the sky that tastes like bread, I mean seriously, what is it?” Well, that’s a bit much, but you get the gist.
When the people of Israel refused to enter into the Promised Land, God punished them for not trusting in Him. They wandered the wilderness for 40 years. During those 40 years, God provided them with manna each morning to have enough for that day. God blessed them with their daily bread.
This gets me to thinking about the New Testament. Jesus teaches His disciples how to pray by asking for their daily bread (Matthew 6:11). In other words, pray for the daily blessings of manna. But it’s a bit more than that. The Heidelberg Catechism says that we’re to come to God for each and every need that we have when we come to Him for our daily bread.
God’s provision. The blessing of manna. Daily bread. It all comes together. But Jesus takes it one step further in the Gospel of John. Jesus tells the disciples and the huge ginormous crowd following him:
“I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, yet they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, which anyone may eat and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven.” John 6:48-51
Not only does Jesus tell us to pray to God our Father for our daily bread, our daily manna, Jesus Himself is that daily bread. Jesus is the blessing of manna that came down so that we might live each day.
Manna. Daily bread. Jesus is the bread of life. It all fits together. It all comes together. Jesus himself is the one who came for us so that we might have life.
But how about receiving the blessing of manna. To bless, said Dallas Willard to John Ortberg in the book Soul Keeping, is to give life, life itself, to someone else. To bless is to offer the whole of oneself to someone else.
Too often we demand blessings from God and don’t understand the very nature of what it means to bless. We sometimes say we’re too blessed to complain. Yet even that isn’t true. In truth, we desperately need to be blessed. To be blessed by God. That he keeps us, that he looks upon us, that he turns towards us and gives us peace.
Blessing of manna.
God gives life through the daily bread of Jesus. And we receive it. Not passively like some want to, just sitting back and letting God do the work. But to actively receive it, to move forward and collect it as it appears on the ground. But what is it? What exactly is this stuff? That’s the same question the people of Israel asked about manna. That’s why they called it that.
What exactly is this blessing of manna? God give us life. True life. Eternal life. A life full of richness (note not riches but richness) a life full of love and completeness even when it doesn’t feel that way. But we must move forward in this divine/human partnership and collect the blessing of manna. Live for Jesus, actually live for him, don’t be passive but move forward in living for Him. He is the bread of life. He is the manna. He is the blessing of Manna that gives us a fullness and richness of life for ever and ever, world without end.