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Hungering

Are you a hungerer for God?

I heard a pastor talk Sunday morning - incidentally, a pastor who was once a Chinese law student and present at Tiananmen Square - and he had some great things to say about how we should pray. His text was Matthew 6:11, which is pretty short, but his message was that we should pray as receivers of all good things from God, as hungerers for God and His grace, and as our brothers’ keepers.

Now, aside from the fact that “hungerer” is, in fact, in the dictionary, it’s a neat word for our relationship to God. The pastor this morning said he knew what hunger was, because he remembered a six-day hunger strike, and he remembered many months in a Chinese jail. I know what hunger is, because I remember missing breakfast Sunday morning and then sitting in the Mexican restaurant after church wondering if my poor tummy was going to implode. It’s an eternal human condition, a need for basic sustenance that everyone shares (except maybe this guy - I’m not really sure what’s going on there). According to the dictionary, that means that we are all hungerers.

And Jesus is the bread of life (John 6:35). Hunger for Him is an eternal human condition, just like physical hunger. For some reason, though, we have a dismaying tendency to try and sate our hunger for God with self-esteem, with people, with activities… with Stuff™. It halfway reminds me of the diet pills you see advertised on TV (“Lose 50 pounds in a week, without exercising or feeling hungry! Here’s how!“). Our hunger for God is harder to place, I think, because we don’t practice it the way we practice hunger. Think about it. From the earliest moments of our lives, there’s a cycle. We feel hunger, so we cry, leading mom/dad/legal guardian to put food in our mouths, and we’re satisfied. We grow up just a little, and we already understand how it works. Eating becomes a part of our lives. Satisfaction of physical hunger is so easy that we often overdo it!

Hunger for God isn’t so easy to practice. First of all, we misidentify it as low self-esteem, as a drive to succeed, as a desire to fit in, as loneliness, and probably as fifty thousand other things too. I bet sometimes we even think it’s a desire for physical food - probably explains some of our eating disorders. Newsflash: none of those things satisfy. Wealth does not buy happiness. Glory fades.

Even if we do realize we need God, we have a tendency to fall into a routine. We recite the model prayer of Matthew 6:9-13, we read some long Israelite genealogy, we say the shortest prayer possible over meals, so that we can hurry up and eat. It’d be like trying to subsist on a grain of rice or a single bean every day. Eventually, you’d hate the taste of rice and beans, if you somehow managed to live long enough! There is so much more for us in Christ than that. How about three meals a day - maybe “breakfast” could be a personal quiet time in the morning, followed by a good “lunch” of conversation with a fellow believer (over sandwiches and coffee, perhaps), and “supper” might be meditating on God’s word in the evening, or sharing it with your spouse. We can even “snack” throughout the day on Christian music radio stations!

Okay, so I admit that last paragraph got a little out of hand. But the idea is sound. I have a pretty good relationship with food… and I am rarely out of reach of a snack. How much deeper might our relationships with God be if we recognized our need for Him and acted on it like we do our need for food!
I love these lines from the song “This World,” by Caedmon’s Call:

This world has nothing for me, and this world has everything - All that I could want, and nothing that I need.

Are you a hungerer for God?