The word generally translated “daily” is indeed an unusual one – epiousios, which is apparently found nowhere else in scripture or anywhere in Greek literature.  Even so, the idea that this is spiritual and not physical bread is very much a minority theory, one that’s generally not accepted by contemporary translators.  Maybe it isn’t impossible, but feeling compelled to accept such an interpretation to “purify” prayer seems mistaken to me. We are embodied beings, not angels, and God’s creation of the physical world was a good thing and not a Manichean mess to be overcome. Asking God to supply not only our spiritual needs but our physical needs as well seems appropriate. (If God cares about sparrows and the lilies of the field, it isn’t too much trouble for him to be concerned for our general physical well-being as well.) Moreover, the act of praying for our daily “bread” is a way of acknowledging that even in that respect we are dependent on God. The God of the Bible is not the hands-off god of Plato, Aristotle, and the deists. God is not like the petty deities of the Greek pantheon, but to divest the biblical God of the sort of personal care and love expressed in books like Hosea and in passages like Luke 13:34 and good old John 3:16 misses something important – something literally crucial. Of course, my objections here don’t mean that we should view God as a cosmic ATM. That would be idolatrous. Even so, the possibility of going too far in one direction doesn’t mean that one can’t also go too far in the opposite direction as well.
Ad . Agreed. As I wrote a few years back:
The Greek word translated as quotidianum in the Luke passage and as supersubstantialem in the Matthew passage is epiousios. I am not competent to discuss the philology of this Greek word, which may be a hapax legomenon. (Nor am I competent to assess the correctness of the two Wikipedia entries to which I have just linked; so caveat lector!)
Ad . Dennis may be right about this. I don't know. But if I'm right, then my being in the minority, the default position for a maverick, is no problem at all.
Ad . Agreed, we are embodied beings, not angels. (It may even be that we are essentially embodied, or if not essentially embodied, then incapable of a complete existence without a body.) But while we are not angels, we are not mere animals either. The main point for present purposes, however, is simply that, as physically embodied beings, we need food and water and other material things for our maintenance if we wish to continue as physically embodied beings.
We are further agreed that matter is not evil, and Manicheanism is out. A physical universe created by a good God is itself (derivatively) good. (Of course, there are deep and vexing questions that lurk below the surface. For example, if ens et bonum convertuntur, then evil is privatio boni, and that raises some serious questions.)
So Dennis and I agree on two key points: that (i) we are embodied (and thus in need of ongoing material sustenance) and that (ii) being embodied is not an evil condition as such. How is it supposed to follow from these two premises that it is appropriate to ask God to supply our physical needs, needs that we have the power to supply for ourselves?
It doesn't follow. We can and must supply our physical needs as best we can by our own efforts. That is our job, not God's. God has a role to play, but it concerns our spiritual development.
Here is my take on the Christian message. We are here below to achieve spiritual individuation. Spiritual individuation, unlike physical individuation, is a task, not a given. It is a task we freely undertake or fail to undertake. We are here to spiritualize ourselves, to actualize ourselves as spiritual individuals. This is a process of theosis, of becoming god-like. God is the Absolute Individual. Our task is to become genuine spiritual individuals by participating in the divine Individuality. This material world is a vale of soul-making (John Keats), a place where we either work at this spiritual individuation or fail to do so. In this life we are always only 'on the road,' in statu viae. We are not here to enjoy material goods as ends in themselves as if this world were our final destination.
In this transient life we must work at supplying our material needs as best we can by our own individual and collective human efforts, not by praying for miracles. I am not saying that miracles are impossible. And I am not saying that anyone who, in extremis, a theist in a foxhole, for example, cries out to God for material assistance is doing something morally wrong. In my original entry I conceded that not all petitionary prayer for mundane benefits is objectionable, and that some of it simply reflects, excusably, our misery and indigence. My point is that, insofar as we can (individually and collectively) do for ourselves we must do for ourselves, relying on God not for our material needs (except insofar as he created the physical universe within which alone material needs can be felt and met) but for our spiritual needs.
And so I do not see that Monokroussos has given me good reason to alter my interpretation:
"Give us this day our daily bread" is thus a request that we be supplied on a daily basis with spiritual bread that we need every day. And since we need it every day, we must ask for it every day. But who needs it? Not the bodily man, but the "inner man" says Cassian. The inner man is the true man. 'Inner man' is a metaphor but it indicates a literal truth: that man is more than an animal. Being more than an animal, he needs more than material sustenance.
It is also worth noting that the materialist interpretation of the daily bread petition plays right into the hands of religion's detractors who see religion as a childish and superstitious thing. There is also this to consider: are there any well-documented cases of people who were miraculously supplied with physical food after they prayed for it? But there are countless cases, some in my own direct experience, in which spiritual assistance was provided as a result of prayer.