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Westminster Shorter Catechism Project

The Shorter Catechism
Illustrated

by
John Whitecross


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

A. 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.


1. Professor Francke, who founded an orphanage, relates that at one time all his provision was spent; 'but in addressing myself' says he, 'to the Lord, I found myself deeply affected with the fourth petition of the Lord's prayer, "Give us this day our daily bread," and my thoughts were fixed in a more especial manner upon the words, this day, because on the very same day we had great occasion for it. While I was yet praying, a friend of mine came before my door in a coach, and brought the sum of 400 crowns.'

2. A godly woman used to say she should never want, because her God would supply her every need. In a time of persecution, she was taken before an unjust judge for attending a conventicle, as they styled her offence. The judge, on seeing her, rejoiced over her, and tauntingly said—'I have often wished to have you in my power, and now I shall send you to prison, and then how will you be fed?' She replied, 'If it be my heavenly Father's pleasure, I shall be fed from your table.' And that was literally the case; for the judge's wife being present at her examination, and being greatly struck with the good woman's firmness, took care to send her victuals from her table, so that she was comfortably supplied all the while she was in confinement: and the other found her reward, for the Lord was pleased to work on her soul, to her real conversion.

3. Cornelius Winter observes, that in a time when he was destitute and knew not where to look for a supply, he received a letter, of which the following is a copy, and which he kept, as he said, to record the kind providence of the Lord: 'Dear and Rev. Sir, I enclose you twenty pounds, as I suppose your purse may be low. I commend you to the grace and love of Jesus; may He long shine upon you and bless you. My dear friend, yours affectionately, J. Thornton.'

4. Henry Erskine, minister of the gospel at Durham, but ejected from the Church of England in 1662, and the father of Ebenezer and Ralph Erskine, was at one time in very destitute circumstances. Once when he and his family had supped at night, there remained neither bread, meal, flesh, nor money in the house. In the morning, the young children cried for their breakfast, and their father endeavoured to divert them, and did what he could at the same time to encourage himself and his wife to depend upon that Providence which feeds the young ravens when they cry for food. While he was thus engaged a country-man knocked hard at the door, and called on some one to help him off with his load. Being asked whence he came, and what he would have, he told them that he came from Lady Raeburn, with some provisions for Mr Erskine. They told him he must be mistaken, and that it was very likely to be for another Mr Erskine in the same town. He replied, No, he knew what he said; he was sent to Mr Henry Erskine, and cried, 'Come, help me off with my load, or else I will throw it down at the door.' They then took the sack from him, and on opening it, found it well filled with provisions.

5. In the years 1821 and 1822, the Hottentots could scarcely procure a morsel of bread, and their garden vegetables almost entirely failed; they were driven for their chief support to the wild fruits of the fields and woods. Those among them who had felt the power of the grace of God, displayed its influence in a very striking manner. A missionary said, 'It is distressing to see what hunger they sometimes endure, but also edifying to find them so firm in their faith and confidence in God. I asked some who had formerly enjoyed plenty and comfort, whether they had not rather return, as they found living so hard.' One said, 'No, indeed, in that place I had food for my body, but not for my soul; the gospel that I hear in this place, is more to me than victuals and drink.' 'It is true,' said another, 'I often go to bed with an empty stomach, but I pray to the Saviour to make me satisfied, and feel no inclination to complain. It will not be always so, and though my garden fruits are all burnt up, I will plant again and again, till it shall please God to make it grow.' Their hope in the providence of God was not disappointed.

6. A poor servant, who had a wife and children to support, was once reduced to such distress, that, with the concurrence of his wife, he went to his master's flock, and brought home a lamb, which was killed, and a part of it dressed, and set on the table. The next thing to be done before their hunger could be relieved, was to ask a blessing on the food. The poor man's heart was filled with anguish. How could he ask a blessing from God on the fruit of unrighteousness? Tears gushed from his eyes. He rose, went directly to his master, told him what he had done, and implored his forgiveness. His master knew him to be not only a sober and industrious, but an honest and well-disposed man, and that nothing but the greatest straits could have tempted him to be guilty of what he had done. After a suitable admonition, he assured him of his hearty forgiveness, told him he was welcome to what he had got, and that he should not be disappointed in any future application which he might find it necessary to make to him, for the supply of his wants. The servant returned home with joy; and with his family he ate with gladness, that food which was now his own and praised the Lord.

7. A minister of the gospel went to dine at the house of one of his hearers, whom he was in the habit of visiting. Dinner being on the table, the master of the house requested the preacher to ask a blessing. It was no sooner said, than one of the children, a boy about seven years old, asked the following appropriate and memorable question. 'Father, what is the reason we always have a blessing asked when the minister dines with us, and never at any other time?'


This material is taken from THE SHORTER CATECHISM ILLUSTRATED by John Whitecross revised and republished by the Banner of Truth Trust edition 1968 and reproduced with their permission.

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