Michael Linn wrote a story for children called Sleeping With Bread. I don't know whether it is based on historical fact but it seems real enough to me. During the bombing raids of World War II, many children were left to starve. The fortunate ones were rescued and sent to refugee camps where they were fed and cared for. But even these children, it seems, could not sleep, for they were so afraid that when they awoke the next day, they would once again be left to starve. So, someone had the idea of giving each child a piece of bread at bedtime. Holding that piece of bread, the children could sleep in peace, knowing that they had eaten that day and they would eat again the next day.
Jesus never said or did anything except with the deepest desire for our well-being. If we are to pray for our daily bread, it is in order that we be reminded both of the existence of our need and of the truth that we already have been given what we most crave. Notice, too, how simple the request is to be: just "give us this day". There is no need to beg ("please give us this day"); or persuade ("I really need bread today"); or bargain ("I'll be really good if you give me bread today"). No, we ask-- trusting that a simple, honest, request is all that is needed.
I've spent a lot of time in my life, as I'm sure have you, trying to identify and fulfill my needs. The humility of Lent, it seems to me, is in recognizing that we are powerless to give ourselves what we most yearn for--the peace and reassurance that, come what may, we are being loved and cared for. The most rigorous form of self-denial might just be giving up any illusion that we have the capacity to give that to ourselves and acknowledging that, like the refugee children, we are completely dependent upon a loving God.
What enabled those children to sleep in peace was the physical presence-a piece of bread-that they already had in their possession. So, as we pray for the peace and comfort we long for, we already know that it has been given us. Our task is simply to remind ourselves that it's there within our reach. And because it is so hard for us to trust that and because no Lenten reflection would be complete without offering a form of prayer, I commend the daily practice of St. Ignacious of Loyola called the "examen of conscience". Starting this evening, reflect back on your day. When did you experience love? Where did you find comfort? When did you fall short? For what do you need to be forgiven? You will quickly see how deeply God is embedded in your life and how faithfully He comes to you, every day, to give you your daily bread.