Numerous traditional mealtime prayers, referred to as “grace” in some forms of Christianity, exist in various religions. Examples include the Catholic prayer: “Bless us, oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.” Other belief traditions encourage unique prayers created for each meal. In the Jewish faith, diners say the post-meal prayer, Birkat Hamazon, to themselves after certain meals. Most meal prayers consist of only a few lines.
In some traditions, one person says grace for the entire gathering of diners, while in other traditions each person says grace silently or quietly to himself.
Other traditional Christian meal prayers include the translation of a traditional German prayer: “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and bless what you bequeathed us.” Some recite a Celtic Selkirk prayer: “Some have meat and cannot eat; some cannot eat that want it, but we have meat and we can eat, sae let the Lord be thankit.”
The Birkat Hamazon consists of four blessings, one each for the food, the land of Israel, Jerusalem and God’s goodness.
In Islam, meals include several prayers, each said in Arabic by individual diners. The prayer said upon preparation of the meal translates roughly as “O, Allah! Bless the food you have provided us, and save us from the punishment of the hellfire.” The prayer said at the commencement of eating translates, “In the name of God and with God’s blessing.” The post meal prayer often consists only of “Praise be to Allah.”
Does your family “say grace” or pray over your meals before you eat? In the past I’ve felt that this was a very meaningful expression of my faith. In recent weeks, though, I’ve begun wondering if it’s really that significant.
The prayers my husband and I pray before meals are often redundant. We say the same words—nearly verbatim—almost every time we pray over our food. I’ve prayed the words so many times that I sometimes don’t pay attention to what I’m actually saying. I’ll find myself thinking about how hungry I feel and stealing glances at the plate of food in front of me. Have you ever experienced something similar?
Before I go on, let me acknowledge that some families intentionally recite scripted prayers. I’m not discounting this approach in general (it may be very meaningful for your family), but my husband and I don’t recite a scripted prayer, so in our case the redundancy isn’t particularly beneficial.
So many things throughout the day can distract our attention from the Lord, so I feel we should take advantage of any opportunity we have to commune with Him. Mealtime prayers are one of these opportunities. By brainstorming and searching the internet, I’ve identified some ideas that may help make mealtime prayers more meaningful.
Ways to make mealtime prayers more meaningful
- Understand why we pray over meals. Why do we say grace? I’ve never read a Bible verse that says, “Thou shalt pray prior to consuming food.” The practice of praying over meals is derived from Scriptural commands and examples. The Bible instructs us to be thankful for God’s gifts (Deuteronomy 8:10 & 1 Timothy 4:3-5) and to pray continually (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). We also have Jesus’ example. He prayed before feeding the 5,000 and 4,000 and before breaking bread with the disciples (Matthew 14:19, 15:36, & 26:27). Paul set the same example when he prayed before eating with his fellow passengers (Acts 27:35). There isn’t an explicit command that we must pray before eating, but I think it’s a natural expression of prayerfulness and thankfulness and a way we can imitate Christ.
- Pray for your guests or for your waiter/waitress. If you have guests at your table, pray for them. You can ask them if they need prayer for anything specific. Likewise, if you’re in a restaurant, check with your waiter or waitress and pray for him or her when you bless your meal.
- Read a passage of Scripture. Scripture is powerful. Why not let it work on your hearts prior to praying? The Psalms and Proverbs are great places to start.
- Use popsicle sticks or tongue depressors labeled with prayer requests. There’s nothing particularly special about wooden sticks, but by writing on them the names of people and situations that need prayer, you can make them into a useful tool. Place the sticks in a jar and have each family member draw one before you bless your meal. You can each pray for the person, family, or situation written on the stick you drew. (I found this idea on the Granola Mom 4 God blog.)
- Pause before praying. Taking 15-30 seconds (or even longer) to pause and reflect can help you rid your mind of distractions and focus on the Lord. The pause can be used to think of a thing or two (in addition to your food) for which you’re thankful. You can also quiet your heart during this time and listen for the Lord to speak.
- Get everyone involved. Go around the table and let each family member contribute to the prayer. One simple way to do this is to allow each loved one to thank God for something.
- Include all forms of prayer in your blessing. Instead of just thanking God for your food, utilize all forms of prayer (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication).
Adoration: “Lord, you are __________ (awesome, loving, compassionate, etc.).”
Confession: “Forgive me/us for __________ (gossiping, lying, etc.).”
Thanksgiving: “Thank you for __________ (our food, our home, our friends, etc.).”
Supplication: “We/our loved ones need __________ (healing from illness, jobs, etc.).”
- Include supplication for a particular group of people each night of the week. Instead of just praying for your food or your family, get in the routine of praying for others. You can see an example below. (I adapted this idea from one presented on the Making Home blog.)
Tuesday: Teachers (school teachers, pastors, etc.)
Wednesday: Widows and orphans
Thursday: Those in authority (government leaders, bosses, etc.)
Friday: Friends and family
Saturday: Sinners (loved ones and friends who don’t know the Lord)
Sunday: Saints (your church and other churches in your community and throughout the world)
- Pray after your meal instead of before. If being hungry before your meal is a distraction, consider praying once you’ve eaten. You may be able to focus more on praying once your hunger is satiated.
Do you pray before meals? Do you ever feel like you’re just going through the motions or is this time always significant? What strategies can you recommend for making mealtime prayer more meaningful?
Shared on the following link-ups:
Faith and Fellowship, Essential Fridays, Fellowship Fridays, Thriving Thursday, Thrive @ Home, Works for Me Wednesday, Welcome Home Wednesday, Encourage One Another, Titus 2 Tuesday, Titus 2sday, Domestically Divine Tuesday, Making Your Home Sing & Living Proverbs 31.
The tradition of praying before eating goes back to biblical times when Jesus fed multitudes of people with just a few loaves of bread and fish as he gave thanks. At the Last Supper, Jesus once again went on to set an example of Thanksgiving as he ate and drank among His disciples. When planning your next family mealtime, incorporate any of these great prayers for mealtime to share.
Bless us, oh Lord,
and these thy gifts
which we are about to receive
from thy bounty,
through Christ, our Lord.
For food that stays our hunger,
For rest that brings us ease,
For homes where memories linger,
We give our thanks for these.
Lord, make us truly thankful for
these and all other blessings.
I ask this in Jesus Christ’s name,
Lord God and Giver of All Good Gifts, we are grateful as we pause before this meal, for all the blessings of life that You give to us. Daily, we are fed with good things, nourished by friendship and care, feasted with forgiveness and understanding. And so, mindful of Your continuous care, we pause to be grateful for the blessings of this table.
May Your presence be the “extra” taste to this meal which we eat in the name of Your Son, Jesus.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Here is a great video looking at praying before eating. In this clip, Thanksgiving dinner is looked at as a reflection is given to the importance of praying before eating each meal.
Christian mealtime prayers, or saying grace, has been a long held tradition over thousands of years.
Our food is the most conspicuous and constant reminder of our Father’s loving care and beneficent provision for our wants and needs. It means to us the continuance of life, good health, and prosperity.
Mealtime prayers have been taken up into the greatest of all symbolism, the Bread of Life, and Water of Life, and the Lord’s Supper. If at any time of the day public thanksgiving is to be expressed to God by our Christian families, it should be at meal prayer time.
Grace before meals is also an indispensable mode of testimony to the bountiful sustenance given to us by God. But the chief argument for saying grace is the example of the Lord Himself. It is said that Jesus blessed the fishes and barley cakes before breaking and giving them to the multitude whom He miraculously fed. Saying grace was Christ’s invariable habit, as it should be the invariable habit of all those who in all things wish to follow Christ’s example.
Special blessings for special occasions are also included in this collection.
We Shall Be Fed
Oh taste and see that the Lord is good!
Blessed is the man that trusts in Him.
We would trust in the Lord, and do good;
So shall we dwell in the land, and we shall be fed.
Dear Lord, as You prepared that breakfast
For Your disciples upon the shore of Galilee,
So truly have You prepared this breakfast for us,
We thank You for Your thought of us,
So kind and so unceasing. We would go through
All this day in thoughts of You. Help us to
Do an honest day’s work that will make You proud.
In Your name. Amen!
Birthday Dinner Prayer
We thank Thee for this food, our Father,
And for all the mercies Thou hast given for this household.
Especially today, we thank Thee for the life of whose birthday
We celebrate today. Wilt Thou not in Thy gracious providence
Prolong that life for many years, and fill it with all holiness
And happiness? We ask it for Jesus’ sake.
Gift From Thy Hand
In Thee, o God, we live and move and have our being.
Thou didst create us, and Thou dost uphold us, and without Thee
We are nothing. We bless Thee for this food, the token of
Thy continued care for us. We take it as a gift from Thy hand
Of love, and we pray Thee for wisdom, that we may spend
The strength it gives us in ways that will please Thee best.
For Jesus’ sake. Amen!
Every Meal a Communion
O Lord, who bid Your disciples remember You
As they broke bread and drank,
We, too, do this in remembrance of You.
Make our every meal a communion with You.
May we see You in all these evidences of Your love for us,
And by seeing You, may we obey and adore You even more.
Sanctify This Food
Almighty Father, we pray Thee, sanctify this food,
That it may strengthen us to do and to endure Thy Holy will
Prefectly, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen!
Blessings of Your Bounty
Lord, from whom comes every good and perfect gift,
Enable us to enjoy these blessings of Your bounty
Give us grace that whether we eat or drink,
Or whatever we do,
We may do all to Your glory, for Jesus’ sake.
To Be Said By Dinner Guest
BESTOW Thy richest blessings, dear Father,
Upon this household, and Thy benediction upon this
Hospitable board. We join together in adoration of Thee.
Thy hand is open, and supplies all our needs.
Add to these blessings Thy gracious presence, O Christ,
And let us realize Thy smile upon us
As we commune with one another.