The following is a text of a prayer I led at an event in Pickens County, Alabama:
Dear Heavenly Father,
As I read the Bible again and again I find you being concerned about feeding humankind.
From Noah and the provisions on the ark; to the children of Israel wandering in the wilderness for whom you provided quail, manna and water; to David and to Elijah and others hiding from evil people; to the feeding of thousands of persons by Jesus in the countryside; to his post-resurrection appearances when first he ate with the disciples in the upper room and again by the seashore when he grilled fish for them; and finally in the latter pages of the book of the Revelation, where all of those who have put their faith and trust in him as their Savior and Lord will be welcomed at the Lamb’s bridal feast, You have made specific provision.
Beyond that you have made general provision for us. You have created a world of order filled with plants and animals which are tasty and nourishing. We have learned from our scientists about the food chain with its complex interdependencies. As we ponder it we can only bow before you and praise you for your goodness and your greatness.
We have gathered here this evening as men and women whose lives are tied to being stewards of the provision you have made to feed humankind. We pause now to thank you first of all for the food that we will be enjoying this evening.
But secondly, we want to thank you for calling us and empowering us to be tillers of your soil, keepers of your vineyards and herdsmen of your flocks. Our lives are much different from–and more complex than–that of our predecessors in Bible times. Yet like Abel there are still those Cains who would take our lives; like Jacob there are those who would like to cheat us at market time, denying us of a just reward for our labors; and like Naboth there are still those like Ahab and Jezebel who would take our land from us.
We live in a trying time. The threat of Mad Cow disease hangs over our heads, as well as, the fear of the spread of the Asian bird virus. Either, or both, could devastate many in this room if it were to come here. The globalization of agriculture makes us vulnerable to the greed and avarice of persons whom we do not know and with whom we cannot remonstrate. In truth, we are more dependent upon you for protection than any who have come before us have been, although all too often we seem to forget this truth.
For the past couple of years we have heard preachers, and even politicians, quote your words to King Solomon: words to the effect that if we will call upon you and humble ourselves and pray and seek your face and turn from our wicked way that you will hear, forgive and heal the land.
Unfortunately, we have not really done this, and indeed this Scripture has been taken out of its original context, which referred the natural disasters which threaten the food supply drought and pests. Its promise has to do with providing food. It is about production, not about politics.
So, my prayer this evening, in addition to asking your blessing upon the food we are about to eat, is that your Holy Spirit will deal with the hearts of the men and women in this room, their neighbors, their fellow producers of food stuff across this nation and around the world. I pray that we will listen to your promise of old and hear it correctly, that we will repent and turn and that you will heal our land.
I pray that we will become good stewards of land and water and of cattle, chicken, pigs, fish and other creatures. I pray that we will be able to create a system of production and distribution that will ensure that no one has to go hungry.
This I pray in the name of Jesus, our Savior and or Lord.
Gary Farley is partner in the Center for Rural Church leadership, Carrollton, Ala.