A recent PBS "News Hour" program included a piece about hunger in America, reporting increases in hunger related to current economic conditions, especially loss of jobs. Perhaps most disturbing was the estimate that 17 million children did not have enough to eat last year. And the Department of Agriculture is expecting those numbers to rise. Apparently, in some areas the demand is already greater than resources available at food banks and other community agencies.
Just that day I'd made a contribution to the Salvation Army, and I had a holiday grocery bag to fill with food for families. But given the apparent need, that all seemed pretty meager.
I wanted to pray about this. Prayer has always been effective in meeting my own needs. Surely it would be helpful now in this greater need as well. I struggled for some time, trying to find that surety of God's care for all those families.
Finally I thought about how Jesus fed thousands despite apparently limited resources – only a few loaves of bread and two fish. That was reassuring. Just as Jesus reached out to God in his time, I could be confident that God was still God, still loving all His creation. Most helpful, however, was when I remembered that before Jesus and the disciples began to feed all those people, he gave thanks to God (see John 6:11).
My sense of this was that it expressed what Jesus knew of God's ongoing care. Think of all the times he'd proved God's willingness and ability to meet people's needs for health, physical safety, and provision. Feeding the thousands was natural and doable for God, and I think giving thanks was Jesus' way of affirming that.
So in my own prayer I gave thanks, too. Thanks for what I knew was true about God's divine reality. Thanks for His infinite love and abundant good. Then almost as if God were telling me, I heard in my thought, "There's no hunger in the kingdom of heaven."
The kingdom of heaven might seem as if it's someplace distant, far from where we are, but in reality that kingdom is here right now. God's presence and power ensure that all is well wherever God is, and God is everywhere. God's abundant love can make itself felt within our present human experience.
As I continued to pray, I recalled how Jesus reassured his disciples that God was mindful of them, of their every practical need. He said that even the hairs of their heads were numbered (see Matt. 10:30). In essence, Jesus was saying that God pays attention to every detail of His creation, and meets our specific needs. The Lord's Prayer states that God's will is done in earth as in heaven, affirming that God's love and care are practical in our daily lives. Mary Baker Eddy, in her book "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures" put it this way: "Divine Love always has met and always will meet every human need" (p. 494).
Both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible include accounts of God's provision of food both for individuals and for groups of people needing to be fed. Why not now as well? I don't think of those Bible happenings as miraculous, but rather as evidence of God's goodness in operation here on earth. Mary Baker Eddy referred to what some call miracles as "lawful wonders," as the fulfilling of God's law of good on earth (Science and Health, p. 135). And on the same page she cautioned against limiting one's expectation of God's ability to provide for His children, quoting Psalm 78:19: " 'Can God furnish a table in the wilderness?' What cannot God do?"
And so I am reassured. I know that others are also praying, and that God answers our prayers. God will lead us to just-right solutions that meet today's need for those unlimited loaves and fishes. Many are already taking concrete steps to feed families. Some, perhaps like me, will be filling a grocery bag with donations to local food pantries. More needs to be done. As we pray more, we'll continue to see more of how God's love and wisdom impels and enables solutions at the community level, and leads individuals to take effective action as well. I am grateful for God's loving, specific care for us all.