“Will you please bless the food?”
We’ve all been there…you’re at the dinner table surrounded by friends and family and someone asks you to bless the food. For many of us, any sort of public speaking (even with the ones we love the most) is a little scary! A whirlwind of questions probably go through your head: Do you quote a scripture? Do you pause for a moment of silence? How long should do prayers before meals generally take? What points should you make? And all of those questions, even the ones we didn’t list, are all okay. A prayer before meal is a very sacred and special occurrence.
It’s important to remember that there is no right or wrong way to recite a prayer. The fact that you’re willing to spend this special time with your loved ones and share a meal is very meaningful and will in turn create beautiful memories that everyone will share for a life time.
But having well versed quick prayers, in your back pocket, won’t hurt either. Don’t worry, they’re all super short and direct. Your loved ones will appreciate your sentiment, but also be happy that you weren’t incredibly long winded. Keep these meal prayers close to your heart and you’ll never be caught off-guard again.
Jesus said to his disciples, “This kind can come out by nothing but fasting and prayer.” (Mark 9:29). You may ask, what ‘kind’ was Jesus referring to? Who was Jesus referring to? The fact is, the kind of demon the disciples were facing, could only come out of the possessed body through fasting and prayer. This article aims to consider fasting and prayer as a Christian spiritual discipline, the importance and benefits of it, and how to fast and pray.
What is fasting?
Fasting is where a person chooses to sustain from foods to deepen their spiritual growth because there is an overwhelming spiritual hunger. The Greek word ‘nesteuo’ and Hebrew word ‘tsum’ means to abstain from food. If a person is said to be in fasting, this means the individual sacrifices the desires of the flesh (sacrificing meals and foods) for the things of the spirit i.e. meditation, fasting and prayer. Fasting breaks the chains of bondage and frees us from the things which bind us to the world of materialism and our surroundings.
Fasting enables a person to refocus their attention back to the things of God and His commandments. It calls us to face and overcome the enemy’s plan. Jesus himself said, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word, that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Whilst men may live on substances (such as bread), as food for the physical body, God is able to support both physical and spiritual life by other means. God who is the word, feeds us with His word, and therefore in a period of fasting, we too must study and meditate on the word of God which comes from God himself.
Jesus saw the importance and the necessity of fasting. Jesus fasted before his temptation by Satan (Matthew 4:1-11). He fasted 40 days and nights (4:2) before commencing His public ministry. Personal attacks came after His fasting (4:3, 6, 9). However, despite the personal attacks and Jesus being physically weak, He was spiritually strong and well prepared for the temptation. Therefore, fasting brings spiritual strength to be able to combat the temptations that will arise.
Fasting must be sincere. Isaiah 58:3-6 highlights how Isaiah rebuked the nation of Israel for their insincere fast.
‘Why have we fasted,’ they say, ‘and you have not seen it? Why have we humbled ourselves, and you have not noticed?’ “Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please and exploit all your workers. Your fasting ends in quarrelling and strife, and in striking each other with wicked fists. You cannot fast as you do today and expect your voice to be heard on high. Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves?
Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is that what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke?
Whilst fasting can have both physical and spiritual benefits, God requires fasting that is sincere. Those who are wrongly imprisoned are set free and every yoke is broken.
Why fasting and prayer as Christian spiritual discipline should be combined?
For fasting to be effective it must be accompanied with prayer. The Greek word ‘Proseuche’ means prayer addressed to God. The Hebrew word ‘Palal’ suggests the act of intercession and supplication.
Fasting therefore should not be simply a ‘non-eating’ exercise. According to research, fasting does have many health benefits, such as weight loss, reduced cholesterol as well as it helps to lower blood pressure. Fasting, must be combined with prayer, otherwise fasting will become a health-conscious activity to reduce weight loss etc. Therefore, fasting and prayer are important Christian spiritual disciplines that are applicable to every Christian.
For example, Daniel prayed to the Lord, in fasting, sackcloth and ashes, because of the desolation of Jerusalem. “So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3). David’s prayer and fasting were a heavy plea, requesting God would show mercy upon the people because of their sin and turning away from God; “We have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled, we have turned away from your commands and laws” (Daniel 9:5).
Fasting and prayer is also a Christian spiritual discipline to seek God’s guidance. Fasting and prayer was important for the appointing of leaders in the New Testament. When Paul and Barnabas required elders for each church in Antioch in Syria, they combined fasting and prayer, then committed the elders to the Lord, in whom they had put their confidence. “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust”. (Acts 14:23).
Benefits of combining fasting and prayer
Therefore, the combining of fasting and prayer is important because it enables Christians to gain:
- a closer relationship with God
- spiritual breakthrough
- a greater level of self-discipline
The Bible teaches us to fast and pray; “Pray continually” (1 Thessalonians 5:17); “Even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.” (Joel 2:12).
How to fast and pray
For prayers to be received by God, they must be offered with the right motives. “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:3). Therefore “the prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective” (James 5:16).
To pray effectively, you should:
- Acknowledge who He is. The Lord’s prayer is a good starting point to recognise who God is; our provider (Luke 11:2-3).
- Always pray with the right motives (James 4:3).
- Build a deep and personal relationship, by recognising Him as creator and King (Psalm 8:1).
- Don’t make your prayers complicated. Use simple words in your prayers i.e. ‘Lord You are great’. Do not pray like the hypocrites (Matthew 6:5-6).
- Ensure you read the Word of God when you pray. You can read the Psalms to invigorate your prayers, and apply the word to your heart (Psalm 119:105).
- Listening to music can help to focus your mind on God.
- Pray expectantly. Ask, seek and knock (Matthew 7:7).
Before you begin fasting, it is important that you do not stop eating without combining your fast with prayer, meditation and reading the Word of God. Therefore, when you fast, you should:
- Understand the spiritual purpose and benefits of your fast. By not planning your fast, is simply going through a period without food.
- Start off by missing perhaps one meal, then gradually moving to two meals and so on until you are happy to do a whole day fast.
- Know the different types of fasts you can engage in. For example, regular fast is where you abstain from all food and liquids except water. This type of fast was evident in 2 Chronicles 20:3 where Jehoshaphat proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah. There are other types of fasts such as the Daniel Fast, where you eat only fruits and vegetables for a certain amount of time and abstain from meat (Daniel 1:8-14).
- Plan what you will do during the times when you would normally be eating meals. This will enable you to focus on the fast and its intended purpose and benefits.
Being able to understand the purpose of Christian fasting and prayer as a spiritual discipline, will enable you to grow effectively as a Christian. Knowing how to fast and pray will also enable you to develop a deeper relationship with God as well as achieve a greater level of self-discipline by the application of these key principles.
Also read: HOW TO PRAY TO GOD
Prayer and Fasting – A Definition
Prayer and fasting is defined as voluntarily going without food in order to focus on prayer and fellowship with God. Prayer and fasting often go hand in hand, but this is not always the case. You can pray without fasting, and fast without prayer. It is when these two activities are combined and dedicated to God’s glory that they reach their full effectiveness. Having a dedicated time of prayer and fasting is not a way of manipulating God into doing what you desire. Rather, it is simply forcing yourself to focus and rely on God for the strength, provision, and wisdom you need.
Prayer and Fasting – What the Bible Says
The Old Testament law specifically required prayer and fasting for only one occasion, which was the Day of Atonement. This custom became known as “the day of fasting” (Jeremiah 36:6) or “the Fast” (Acts 27:9). Moses fasted during the 40 days and 40 nights he was on Mount Sinai receiving the law from God (Exodus 34:28). King Jehoshaphat called for a fast in all Israel when they were about to be attacked by the Moabites and Ammonites (2 Chronicles 20:3). In response to Jonah’s preaching, the men of Nineveh fasted and put on sackcloth (Jonah 3:5). Prayer and fasting was often done in times of distress or trouble. David fasted when he learned that Saul and Jonathan had been killed (2 Samuel 1:12). Nehemiah had a time of prayer and fasting upon learning that Jerusalem was still in ruins (Nehemiah 1:4). Darius, the king of Persia, fasted all night after he was forced to put Daniel in the den of lions (Daniel 6:18).
Prayer and fasting also occurs in the New Testament. Anna “worshipped night and day, fasting and praying” at the Temple (Luke 2:37). John the Baptist taught his disciples to fast (Mark 2:18). Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights before His temptation by Satan (Matthew 4:2). The church of Antioch fasted (Acts 13:2) and sent Paul and Barnabas off on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:3). Paul and Barnabas spent time in prayer and fasting for the appointment of elders in the churches (Acts 14:23).
Prayer and Fasting – Required or Recommended?
The Word of God does not specifically command believers to spend time in prayer and fasting. At the same time, prayer and fasting is definitely something we should be doing. Far too often, though, the focus of prayer and fasting is on abstaining from food. Instead, the purpose of Christian fasting should be to take our eyes off the things of this world and focus our thoughts on God. Fasting should always be limited to a set time because not eating for extended periods can be damaging to the body. Fasting is not a method of punishing our bodies and it is not be used as a “dieting method” either. We are not to spend time in prayer and fasting in order to lose weight, but rather to gain a deeper fellowship with God.
By taking our eyes off the things of this world through prayer and biblical fasting, we can focus better on Christ. Matthew 6:16-18 declares, “When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show men they are fasting. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”
Prayer and Fasting – What Does it Accomplish?
Spending time in prayer and fasting is not automatically effective in accomplishing the desires of those who fast. Fasting or no fasting, God only promises to answer our prayers when we ask according to His will. 1 John 5:14-15 tells us, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us – whatever we ask – we know that we have what we asked of him.” In the prophet Isaiah’s time, the people grumbled that they had fasted, yet God did not answer in the way they wanted (Isaiah 58:3-4). Isaiah responded by proclaiming that the external show of fasting and prayer, without the proper heart attitude, was futile (Isaiah 58:5-9).
How can you know if you are praying and fasting according to God’s will? Are you praying and fasting for things that honor and glorify God? Does the Bible clearly reveal that it is God’s will for you? If we are asking for something that is not honoring to God or not God’s will for our lives, God will not give what we ask for, whether we fast or not. How can we know God’s will? God promises to give us wisdom when we ask. James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.”
Learn More about Prayer!
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
– We have all
and deserve God’s judgment.
, the Father, sent His only Son to satisfy that judgment for those who believe in Him.
, the creator and eternal Son of God, who lived a sinless life, loves us so much that He
for our sins, taking the punishment that we deserve, was
rose from the dead
according to the
. If you truly believe and trust this in your heart, receiving Jesus alone as your
, declaring, “
Jesus is Lord
,” you will be saved from
and spend eternity with God in heaven.
What is your response?
Yes, today I am deciding to follow JesusYes, I am already a follower of JesusI still have questions
Prayers Before Meals (Grace)
Meals are an important time to realize how lucky we are to have enough to eat, and give God thanks. We hope you will find these blessing useful.
If you are seeking to grow closer to Christ, for your family or just yourself, try out our interdenominational Daily Devotion, which is new every day. Prayers, music, artwork, Scripture and Commentary; reading it each day, or even every once in a while, will enrich your life.
Two Commonly Used Blessings
Bless, O Lord, this food to our use and us to thy service, and keep us ever mindful of the needs of others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
For this and all we are about to receive, make us truly grateful, Lord. Through Christ we pray. Amen.
There are hundreds of prayer forms used before meals. Here are some good ones:
For good food and those who prepare it, for good friends with whom to share it, we thank you Lord.
For food in a world where many walk in hunger;
For faith in a world where many walk in fear;
For friends in a world where many walk alone;
We give you thanks, O Lord.
Let us thank God for food when others are hungry; for drink when others are thirsty; for friends when others are lonely.
Be present at our table, Lord!
Be here and everywhere adored.
Your mercies bless, and grant that we
May feast in Paradise with Thee
(or: May strengthened for thy service be.)
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all his benefits.
Blessed be God, eternal king, for these and all his good gifts to us.
Our Dear Heavenly Father, we thank Thee for this food. Feed our souls on the bread of life and help us to do our part in kind words and loving deeds. We ask in Jesus’ name.
Our Heavenly Father, kind and good,
we thank Thee for our daily food.
We thank Thee for Thy love and care.
Be with us Lord, and hear our prayer.
Most Holy, Righteous and everywhere present God,
our Father who art in Heaven,
we ask thy blessing upon this food.
Bless the hearts and hands that provide the same.
And when it is ours to pass from time to eternity,
own us and crown us heirs to Thy kingdom.
These favors and blessings we ask in the name of Christ,
our Great Redeemer.
From thy hand cometh every good,
We thank thee for our daily food.
And with it Lord, thy blessing give,
And to thy glory may we live.
Great God accept our gratitude,
For the great gifts on us bestowed–
For rainment, shelter and for food.
Great God, our gratitude we bring,
Accept our humble offering,
For all the gifts on us bestowed,
Thy name be evermore adored.
May this food so fresh and fragrant, call forth reverence for You in our souls. As you give this strength to our perishable limbs, So give us grace for our immortal lives.
Be present at our table, Lord; Be here and everywhere adored. These mercies bless, and grant that we May feast in fellowship with thee.
Blessing for Thanksgiving Day
Our Father in Heaven, we give thanks for the pleasure of gathering together for this occasion. We give thanks for this food prepared by loving hands. we give thanks for life, the freedom to enjoy it all, and all other blessings.
As we partake of this food, we pray for health and strength to carry on and try to live as You would have us. This we ask in the name of Christ, Our Heavenly Father. Amen.
Dear Heavenly Father, Thank You for this special day, a day to remember Your goodness to us.
Thank You for a roof over our heads, and more than enough food to eat.
Thank You for the family You have given to us, for family and friends who have gathered together to eat this Thanksgiving Day meal. Amen
O Gracious God, we give you thanks for your overflowing generosity to us. Thank you for the blessings of the food we eat and especially for this feast today. Thank you for our home and family and friends, especially for the presence of those gathered here. Thank you for our health, our work and our play. Please send help to those who are hungry, alone, sick and suffering war and violence. Open our hearts to your love. We ask your blessing through Christ your son. Amen.
Especially Suitable for Children
For food and health and happy days
receive our gratitude and praise
In serving others Lord may we
Repay our dept of love to thee.
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.
God is great, God is good.
Let us thank him for our food.
By his hands, we are fed.
Let us thank him for our bread.
God our Father, Lord and Saviour
Thank you for your love and favor
Bless this food and drink we pray
And all who shares with us today.
Without Thy sunshine and Thy rain
We could not have the golden grain;
Without Thy love we’d not be fed;
We thank Thee for our daily bread.Amen.
This clever one was written by Robert Burns
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some would eat that want it;
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
Come, Lord Jesus, our guest to be
And bless these gifts
Bestowed by Thee.
And bless our loved ones everywhere,
And keep them in Your loving care.
We thank you, God
We thank you, God, for this our food,
for life and health and every good.
Let manna to our souls be given —
the bread of life sent down from heaven.
From a hymn by John Cennick, 1745
Several from Ireland:
May the blessing of the five loaves and the two fishes which God shared out among the five thousand be ours. May the King who did the sharing bless our sharing and our co-sharing.
Bless, O Lord, this food we are about to eat; and we pray You, O God, that it may be good for our body and soul; and if there be any poor creature hungry or thirsty walking along the road, send them into us that we can share the food with them, just as You share your gifts with all of us.
May this food restore our strength, giving new energy to tired limbs, now thoughts to weary minds. May this drink restore our souls, giving new vision to dry spirits, new warmth to cold hearts. And once refreshed, may we give new pleasure to You, who gives us all.
This one is from the Carmina Gadelica collected by Alexander Carmichael, late 1800’s
Give us O God of the nourishing meal, well-being to the body, the frame of the soul.
Give us O God of the honey-sweet milk,
the sap and the savor of the fragrant farms.
God in our waking, God in our speaking;
God in our cooking, God in our eating;
God in our playing, God in our digesting;
God in our working, God in our Resting.
In a world where so many are hungry,
may we eat this food with humble hearts;
in a world where so many are lonely,
May we share this friendship with joyful hearts.
O you who clothe the lilies of the field, and feed the birds of the air, who leads the sheep to pasture and the hart to the water’s side, who has multiplied the loaves and fishes and converted the water to wine, do come to our table as giver and guest, to dine.
O Lord, who clothes the lilies
And feeds the birds of the sky,
Who leads the lambs to pasture
And the deer to the waterside,
Who has multiplied loaves and fishes
And converted water to wine,
O Lord, come to our table,
As guest and giver, to dine.
Lord, bless this food and grant that we May thankful for thy mercies be. Teach us to know by whom we’re fed; Bless us with Christ, the living bread.
Blessings for Christmastide
In the peace of this season our spirits are joyful: With the beasts and angels, the shepherds and stars, with Mary and Joseph we sing God’s praise. By your coming may the hungry be filled with good things, and may our table and home be blessed. Bless us O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.
God of all gifts, we thank you for the many ways you have blessed us this day. We are grateful each of those who are gathered around this table. We ask you to bless us and our food and to bless those we love who are not with us today. In our gratitude and love, we remember your humble birth into our lives and pray for those who are are without enough to eat. We remember the stable in which you were born and pray for those who have no place to live. We remember your challenging message of caring and giving and we pray for peace in families and nations throughout the world. We bless you and give you thanks in your Spirit who brings our hearts to life the Christmas Day and forever. Amen.
Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child,
Make thee a bed, soft, undefiled,
Within my heart, that it may be
A quiet chamber kept for Thee.
My heart for very joy doth leap,
My lips no more can silence keep,
I too must sing, with joyful tongue,
That sweetest ancient song,
Glory to God in highest heaven,
Who unto man His Son hath given
While angels sing with pious mirth.
A glad new year to all the earth! Amen.
(written by Martin Luther)