"I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again." (John 6:35, NLT)
Jesus goes on to talk about those who eat the bread of life having eternal life but we should not make the assumption that He is simply talking about our need to "feed" on Him for salvation. That is only part of the message.
The crowds that flocked to Jesus had been physically hungry and He fed 5,000 of them with just a few loaves and fish (v1-15). They had experienced a miracle which had satisfied their bodies, but they were not satisfied spiritually. They thought they needed another miracle (v30). Instead Jesus taught them that He is the bread from heaven and that feeding on Him is the source of eternal life (v57-58). Eternal life is not just our ultimate destiny, it is our present experience - "this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent" (John 17:3, NIV). To feed on Jesus is to have eternal life which means to have experiential knowledge of Him today.
We all have spiritual hunger though we sometimes try to satisfy it in the wrong way. We seek the company of friends, we look for sources of entertainment, we work for wealth, possessions or status. There is nothing inherently wrong with any of these things, but if they are a substitute for feeding on Jesus, our spiritual hunger will never be satisfied.
How Much Food Do You Need?
I have found it is essential to my well being and my ability to cope with the day that I spend a substantial amount of time fellowshipping with the Lord before I do anything else. Actually, I don't even get out of bed until I've taken time to nourish my spirit with worship and Bible reading. If I fail to do that I struggle with the day and my family suffers because I become very short-tempered rather quickly.
We've looked before at the issue of how long we should spend in prayer and I'm still an advocate of Dick Eastman's method described in his book The Hour That Changes the World: A Practical Plan for Personal PrayerIt provides an excellent outline for developing a balanced prayer life, but for many people spending an hour in prayer is not possible.
I've come to the conclusion that the right amount of time for me to spend in feeding on Jesus is however long it takes for me to feel full. There comes a point when I know my spirit has received the nourishment it needs. To finish my prayer time before that leaves me spiritually weak for the rest of the day. To go beyond the point of feeling well fed is fruitless. I gain nothing extra from spending more time trying to pray. If I feel spiritually well fed after 30 minutes there's no point carrying on for another half-an-hour just so I can tick a box that says I prayed an hour today.
Where Intercession Fits
The "feeding on Jesus" that I've described here is simply a personal devotional time. Dick Eastman includes intercession in his hour of prayer but I found very early in my Christian experience that trying to include praying for others in the same slot as praying for myself didn't work.
I would be enjoying the Lord's company and then start to feel guilty because I wasn't mentioning the needs of others. Or I would be praying for friends, family and Christian workers but feel frustrated because I was neglecting feeding on Jesus.
What I have found most beneficial is to have two separate prayer times, one for just me and the Lord at the beginning of the day and a second period later in the day which I devote solely to praying for others. That way I feel I am giving my best to both my personal relationship with the Lord and to my intercession for others.
Prayer College Assignment
Do you feel spiritually well fed when you leave your devotional times? If not, ask the Lord to satisfy your hunger for Him each time you turn to Him in prayer.