Lord, when I am hungry,
give me someone in need of
when I am thirsty,
send me someone needing a
when I am cold,
send me someone to warm;
when I am grieved,
offer me someone to console;
when my cross grows heavy,
let me share another's cross;
when I think only of myself,
draw my thoughts to another.
IN THE final episode of the recent BBC2 comedy series
Rev, the vicar, Adam Smallbone, is having a bad time. He
has kissed the local head teacher and resigned from his post,and
his church has been sold to a property developer. He has taken to
his bed in a state of depression.
His wife, Alex, has the unenviable task of trying to help him.
Nothing works until she realises that he does not need to be
ministered to: he needs to minister. She persuades him to break
into the church to celebrate the service of light on Holy Saturday
for his congregation. As he does so, there are the first rays of
hope that, after his Good Friday, Adam might at last reach his own
I love this prayer, because it recognises the interdependence
between those who minister, and those who receive ministry: that,
when we give to others, we often receive more in return. Its
origins are uncertain. Several attempts to ascribe it to Mother
Teresa have been found lacking in evidence. The best guess seems to
be that it came from other members of her order.
It is a prayer with soft edges, in that it appears in at least
six different variations on the internet alone, suggesting that it
is part of an oral tradition. It is a prayer that is prayed.
This prayer helps us to reflect on what it means to give and
receive.It also opens up the question what our needs really are,
and whetherwe understand them. When I am bound up in my problems,
having someone else to think about as well does not sound very
sensible, but it is surprising how often it helps me with my own
struggles when my thoughts are drawn to another.
When we are under threat, when we are hungry or thirsty or in
pain, our instinct often is to withdraw into ourselves, to rely on
our own resources. This prayer asks for the grace and the courage
to choose the moment when life is difficult to reach out to another
When I was at primary school, the vicar told a story in assembly
which I have never forgotten. The essence of it was that the people
in heaven and hell were all given six-foot-long chopsticks to eat
with. The people in heaven worked out that what they needed to do
was feed each other, whereas the people in hell went hungry. Thirty
years later, I still think of that story. It is a reminder that we
need one another to be fulfilled.
This prayer, elegantly and simply, reminds us that God is a God
of relationship, and he has made us that way, too. It is only by
meeting one another's needs that we have our own met most
The Revd Catherine Pickford is Team Rector in the Benwell
Team Ministry, in Newcastle-upon-Tyne.