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Our common denominator

5 February 2014

The Enough Food For Everyone IF campaign has ended, but in this extra reflection, Rev Dr Joel Edwards argues that our urgent focus on food must remain as the first period of the Millennium Development Goals comes to a close next year.

children with cassava

Food is a serious business in the Bible. The fortune of a nation was sealed over a pot of stew, when a famished Esau sold his birthright to his brother Jacob (Genesis 25:29-34).

Immediately after the triumph on Mount Carmel, Elijah's ministry avoided a catastrophic, suicidal conclusion and a two-course meal made all the difference between his failure and the appointment of a powerful successor (1 Kings 19:1-9).

And of course, Jesus' temptation had everything to do with food (Matthew 4:1-11) and the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 (one of the few miracles recorded in all four Gospels) was about Jesus' commitment to feed hungry people.  

But supremely, the Lord's Prayer underscores this elementary concern for food. 'Give us today our daily bread' (Luke 11:3).

  • The Lord's Prayer cannot be prayed properly without empathy.'

Those of us who have three meals a day and belong to cultures with two or three times the amount of nutritional food needed to feed the population will find it hard to identify with the emotions involved in this simple text.

To embrace such a prayer may well mean putting ourselves in other people's shoes. Borrowing someone else's stomach.

That's not easy, but it goes to the very heart of our Lord's Prayer, which cannot be prayed properly without empathy: give us our daily bread.

It is the bread received with empathy. It's the common denominator of human need, where rich and poor gather around the same table. For even if I happen to live in a land of plenty and have more than enough, when I eat with those in poverty, they embrace me in their need.

So no wonder that the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger was the first of the eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) introduced to the world in 2000, with a target to reduce extreme poverty by 50% by 2015. 

And in the Lord's Prayer we sit at that same global table in expectancy. Some things can happen next week or next year, but other things must happen today. And again tomorrow.

It's today that a billion people need to know where to find food or clean water to drink. Today, a child needs a vaccine in order to stay alive. Today, a woman might face prostitution to afford a meal for her children.

Every day the struggle for survival happens in what the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jnr called 'the fierce urgency of the now.'

In this 'today-ness' our dependence is accentuated and God becomes more sharply defined. We are forced to experience the meaning of life itself: God must give us bread. 

In effect the Lord's Prayer is another way of saying: those who know they need bread today are more likely to know they need God every day.

Rev Dr Joel Edwards, International Director, Micah Challenge.


Find out more

Enough Food For Everyone IF: what we achieved

Church and prayer resources


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