Sociologists and anthropologists have identified nine fundamental human needs. They are, in order: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, leisure, creation, identity, and freedom.
The order is important. When people are starving they don’t care about the other eight needs until their deep hunger is met. Once hunger is met; however, protection then moves to the top of the charts. Once protection is secured, then humans crave relationship and affection. After that comes understanding, and then participation, etc.
Two points worth noticing are that 1) our deepest needs change based on where we are in life, and 2) there is usually a deeper, more fundamental need than what we are currently craving.
With this understanding that subsistence—food and water—is our top human need, it is absolutely fascinating to read that when God invited Moses to step closer to His revealed presence, Moses went forty days and forty nights without receiving any natural sustenance. “Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water” (Exodus 34:28).
Forty days without food would be tough, but forty days without water?? There must be something about the raw presence of God that satisfies us more deeply than even water can.
When Jesus’ disciples asked Him if He was hungry, He replied, “I have food to eat that you know nothing about” (John 4:32). He understood what Moses knew. Subsistence is not the most fundamental human need—God is.
True, our bodies can’t live without food or water, but nor can our soul fully live without God. And whereas food and water can add a few additional moments to a natural existence, God’s presence can add an eternity to the soul.
I’m not suggesting that we pray really hard and then stop drinking water (health advisors would say we need to be drinking more). But perhaps we could follow Moses and move a few steps closer to a true relationship with God. Perhaps we would find our need for other things becoming satisfied.