Armed with Prayer


John Mark’s account of the feeding of the five thousand was an answer to prayer.  When Jesus told the twelve to feed the people, they must have prayed and sweated. That one feeding would have cost the twelve eight months of their wages, which they did not have. Who would extend them a loan for throwing a party to a people, that went into the desert. People do get stranded without being prepared. World War II stranded us and we, too, became desperate for food. Those that followed Jesus into a deserted place, wanted to know something about Him and He was not going to abandon them, or let them starve. What David said also applies to us, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up” (Psalms 27:10). Two classic examples were the life of Hagar, mother of Ishmael and Elijah fed by a ravens (Genesis 16, 21; I Kings 17).

The word “thanks” is more than a simple thank you to God for our daily meals. The Greek text uses the word “eucharisteo.” It is a combination of “eu” and “charis.” The “eu” means things are good, joyful, right, or well. “Charis” we know as grace, but it also has to do with being generous, kind, joyful, and hospitable. It is related to the “Eucharist” or Holy Communion. We know it as our “Lord’s Last Meal.” To Jesus, Himself, it was no different from any other meal. He gave thanks, when He fed the five thousand and when He ate the Passover Meal. It was the host or head of the family or clan, who blessed or sanctified the bread, broke it into pieces and handed a morsel to everyone.  Bread, to many people, represented life, and to hold the bread, hands had to be washed before it was shared. The recipients were required to search their hearts whether they were worthy to eat sanctified bread. Paul applied this tradition to the Eucharist (I Corinthians 11:27-34). Every meal that a believer or unbeliever eats is a gift from God. It is proof that God’s grace is at work. “It is out of His fullness that we receive grace upon grace,” or blessing upon blessing (John 1:16).

We humans have a tendency to hang on to bread, when times are tough. It is almost unbelievable that only one boy, out of more than five thousand, had some thing to eat. And it is even more amazing, that this youngster was willing to give up his lunch. I tested some of our grandchildren and some were not willing to share their sweets with each other. The boy had amazing confidence in Jesus. He was not at all disappointed, for Jesus did multiply his buns and two fish, and then, Jesus was rewarded more than a hundred fold. He needed twelve men to carry his lunch. Before Jesus distributed the food, He thanked His Father in heaven, and by that act, He blessed the food. The disciples handed it out to everyone alike. During His Passover Meal, Jesus served Judas the traitor first (John 13:26). It takes courage to share with others, when we have little ourselves. The widow, at Zarephath, served her last meal to Elijah the prophet, and the Lord kept the jar of flour and the jug of oil filled for the duration of the famine (I Kings  17:14). In the Fall of 1939, we fled to the West, but we were held up at the border by the Soviets. Every day father stood in breadlines and what he brought back, we children were fed first and our pregnant mother and father went hungry. Again, in January 19 45, we were evacuating again, this time with horses and wagons. While we were still loading things from our house, the native people, who worked for us, were taking whatever was edible and carried it away or hid it from the approaching Red Army. These people did not trust their own deliverers from the Nazis. As far as we were concerned, our barns were not full. We only were allowed to keep as much, as was necessary, to live and plant for the next harvest. During those days, we offered thanks for allowing us to escape from certain death. We were prepared to starve to death, rather than to fall into the hands of an angry Russian mob that sought revenge for the devastation Hitler’s army had caused to Russia.  

Bread does not grow on trees. Thanks ought to go to those that produce bread. The boy, who gave up his lunch, did not bake the bread or raise the wheat nor did he turn the grain into flour. It took much labor to give the boy five buns and two small fish. Fishing alone can be hazardous. The Creator, of all things could easily turn stones into bread, but He does not grow wheat and the bake bread. Paul’s belief that, “My God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus,” is not exactly accurate (Philippians 4:19). If I should find a package at my door in the morning, it was not God, who delivered it, but one of his servants. Who supplied Paul with bread? He sent Titus to Corinth to collect funds for the needy and Paul used the Macedonian Churches to challenge the people. “So he urged Titus, since he had earlier made a beginning, to bring also to completion this act of grace (charin) on your part.  But just as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, incomplete earnestness and in your love for us – see that you also excel in this grace of giving. And here is my advice about what is best for you in this matter. Last year you were the first not only to give but also to have the desire to do so. Now finish the work, so that your eager willingness to do it may be matched by your completion of it, according to your means. Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need” (II Corinthians 8:6-14).

Our prayer should be, “Lead me to make some one thankful for supplying their need.” I think this is what Paul had in mind. “Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see you again and supply what is lacking in your faith” (I Thessalonians 3:10). Hudson Taylor, missionary to China, shared this experience. “I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help him. I ended up by asking him to do his work through me.” After that prayer, the missionary had multiple blessings (Wa.153). A certain Rabbi had his logic thwarted on a Sabbath. He trudged home disheartened and disappointed. His concerned wife asked, “What was your sermon subject that took so much starch out of you?” “Ah, Rachel,” he complained, “I tried to tell them that it was the duty of the rich to help the poor.” “And did you convince them,” she pressed? “I guess it was about fifty-fifty. I convinced the poor,” he replied (Ar.8). A father was rudely awakened by his little boy’ interruption of his daily prayers at mealtime. Day in and out the father prayer, “Lord, feed the hungry. Lord feed the hungry.” “Daddy,” blurted the lad, “why don’t you take some of the corn out of your bins and answer your prayers? Why do you bother the Lord?” This childlike wisdom, may appeal to those among us, who are unfamiliar with the tasks to produce bread, but not to those who earn it the hard way. An old man was tending his garden, day in and day out. It became the envy of many a lazy and indifferent person. One day, one of these “Let God do it” citizens stopped and remarked, “The Lord has given you a beautiful garden.” “Yes, He did,” replied the owner. Then he added quietly, “You should have seen it when the Lord had it all to himself.” God does not give us finished projects. He left that task to us. Thanks to the hands that feed us!

A farmer visited a large city and sat down in a restaurant near a group of younger men. When his order came, he bowed his head in silence to give thanks for the meal. The young hoods mocked the old man and one spoke up and asked out loud, “Hey, farmer, does everyone do that where you live?” The old gent looked up and replied, “No son, my animals don’t” (Mur. 475).