A grace is a short prayer or thankful phrase said before or after eating. Less commonly, it may be a prayer of thanks for other things. A grace for light is the subject of the poem of the same name, by Moira O’Neill, and is mentioned by Erasmus, in the Querela Pacis. The term most commonly refers to Christian traditions. Some traditions hold that grace and thanksgiving imparts a blessing which sanctifies the meal. In English, reciting such a prayer is sometimes referred to as “saying grace”.
Typical Christian grace prayers
- Ecumenical – “God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By his hands we all are fed. Thank you for our daily bread. Amen.”
- Catholic (before eating) – “Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.” (Preceded and followed by the Sign of the Cross.)
- Catholic (after eating) – “We give Thee/You thanks, Almighty God, for all Thy benefits, and for the poor souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, may they rest in peace. Amen.” (Preceded and followed by the Sign of the Cross.)
- Eastern Orthodox (before eating) – “O Christ God, bless the food and drink of Thy servants, for holy art Thou, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.” (The one saying the prayer may make the Sign of the Cross over the food with his right hand).
- Eastern Orthodox (after eating) – After the meal, all stand and sing: We thank Thee, O Christ our God, that Thou hast satisfied us with Thine earthly gifts; deprive us not of Thy Heavenly Kingdom, but as Thou camest among Thy disciples, O Saviour, and gavest them peace, come unto us and save us. There are also seasonal hymns which are sung during the various Great Feasts. At Easter, it is customary to sing the Paschal troparion.
- Anglican Bless, O Father, Thy gifts to our use and us to Thy service; for Christ’s sake. Amen.
- Lutheran (The common table prayer) (before eating) Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest, and let Thy/these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.
- Lutheran (The common table prayer) (after eating) O give thanks unto/to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy/love endureth/endures forever. Amen.
- Methodist/Wesleyan (Grace Before Meat) Be present at our table Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. These mercies bless and grant that we may feast in fellowship with Thee. Amen.
- Methodist/Wesleyan (Grace After Meat) We thank thee, Lord, for this our food, But more because of Jesus’ blood. Let manna to our souls be given, The Bread of Life, sent down from heaven. Amen.
- Scots (The Selkirk Grace). Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat, and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.
- Australian (any denomination) Come Lord Jesus, be our Guest, let this food of ours be blessed. Amen.
- Church of England, Common in British and Australian religious schools. For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful/grateful. Amen.
- Used at some YMCA summer camps Our Father, for this day, for our friends, for this food, we thank Thee. Amen.
- The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints Dear Heavenly Father, we thank thee for the food that has been provided and the hands that have prepared the food. We ask thee to bless it that it may nourish and strengthen our bodies. In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.
- Protestant (Anglican, & Church of England) love god and jesusFor what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly Grateful/Thankful, Amen
Before eating, a blessing is said based on the category of food that is being eaten. The categories are: (i) Bread, (ii) fruits that grow on a tree, (iii) fruits/vegetables that do not grow on a tree, (iv) derivates of the five grains (except for bread, which has its own blessing), (v) derivatives of grapes and (vi) everything else.
The Jewish mealtime prayer, after eating a meal that includes bread, is known as Birkat Hamazon. If the meal does not include bread, a blessing after the meal is recited based on the category of food that was eaten.
With the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, the offering of the prescribed sacrifices ceased in Judaism. Thereafter, the Rabbis prescribed the substitution of other ritual actions to fill this void in Jewish obedience to the Torah. The ritual washing of hands and eating of salted bread is considered to be a substitute for the sacrificial offerings of the kohanim (Jewish priests).
Though there are separate blessings for fruit, vegetables, non-bread grain products, and meat, fish, and dairy products, a meal is not considered to be a meal in the formal sense unless bread is eaten. The duty of saying grace after the meal is derived from Deuteronomy 8:10: “And thou shalt eat and be satisfied and shalt bless the Lord thy God for the goodly land which he has given thee.” Verse 8 of the same chapter says: “The land of wheat and barley, of the vine, the fig and the pomegranate, the land of the oil olive and of syrup.” Hence only bread made of wheat (which embraces spelt) or of barley (which for this purpose includes rye and oats) is deemed worthy of the blessing commanded in verse 10.
After the meal, a series of four (originally three) benedictions are said, or a single benediction if bread was not eaten.
- Before eating:
- When meal is ready: “Allahumma barik lana fima razaqtana waqina athaban-nar. “ (Translation: O Allah! Bless the food You have provided us and save us from the punishment of the hellfire.
- While starting to eat: bismillahi wa ‘ala baraka-tillah (“In the name of God and with God’s blessing”) or simply b-ismi-llāh-ir-raḥmān-ir-raḥīm (“in the name of God, the gracious, the merciful”) .
- On forgetting to say grace :
Since each person says their grace individually, if someone forgets to say grace at the beginning, this supplication is made- “Bismillahi fee awalihi wa akhirihi.” (In the name of Allah, in the beginning and the end.)
- After eating:“Alhamdulillah il-lathi at’amana wasaqana waja’alana Muslimeen. (Praise be to Allah Who has fed us and given us drink, and made us Muslims.) or simply “Alhamdulillah.” (Praise be to Allah.)
The Bahá’í Faith has these two prayers, which are meant for those who wish to thank God before they eat:
“He is God! Thou seest us, O my God, gathered around this table, praising Thy bounty, with our gaze set upon Thy Kingdom. O Lord! Send down upon us Thy heavenly food and confer upon us Thy blessing. Thou art verily the Bestower, the Merciful, the Compassionate.”
“He is God! How can we render Thee thanks, O Lord? Thy bounties are endless and our gratitude cannot equal them. How can the finite utter praise of the Infinite? Unable are we to voice our thanks for Thy favors and in utter powerlessness we turn wholly to Thy Kingdom beseeching the increase of Thy bestowals and bounties. Thou art the Giver, the Bestower, the Almighty.”
Hindus use the 24th verse of the 4th chapter of Bhagavad Gita as the traditional prayer or blessing before a meal. Once the food is blessed it becomes Prasad, or sanctified as holy
Brahmaarpanam Brahma Havir
Brahmaagnau Brahmanaa HutamBrahmaiva Tena GantavyamBrahma Karma Samaadhinah
Which translates as ‘The act of offering is God (Brahma), the oblation is God, By God it is offered into the fire of God, God is That which is to be attained by him who sees God in all.’
Sometimes, the 14th verse from the 15th chapter of Bhagavad Gita is used:
Aham Vaishvaanaro Bhutva
Praaninaam DehamaashrithaPraanaapaana Samaa YuktahaPachaamyannam Chatur Vidam
This translates as ‘Becoming the life-fire in the bodies of living beings, mingling with the upward and downward breaths, I digest the four kinds of food.’
Traditional Maharashtrian grace invokes the Lord through the shloka of Sant Ramdas namely:
vadani kaval gheta naam ghya shri-hariche l sahaj havan hote naam gheta phukache l jivan kari jivitva anna he purn-brahma l udar-bharan nohe janije yadnya-karma ll 1 ll
jani bhojani naam vache vadave l ati aadare gadya-ghoshe mhanave l harichintane anna sevit jaave l tari srihari pavijeto swabhave ll 2 ll
This translates as: Take the name of the Lord when putting a morsel into your mouth.
Other pre-meal traditions
In Japan it is customary to put one’s hands together and say “Itadakimasu” (いただきます) (“I humbly receive”) before eating a meal.
In Korea, it is customary to say “Jal meokgesseumnida” (잘 먹겠습니다) (“I will eat well’). The saying is not religious in nature, and usually only occurs when eating with someone else.
In certain Boy Scout circles, especially in Missouri, the “S-F” grace (named after the S-F Scout Ranch in Knob Lick, Missouri) is often said, especially when people at the table are of mixed religions. The S-F grace gives thanks to a “great Spirit”, but is not affiliated with any one religion.
Another common Boy Scout grace is the “Philmont Grace” (named after the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico) or the “Wilderness Grace”. It can be found in use wherever a troop has gone to Philmont, but is most common in the Western half of the United States. It goes: ” For food, for raiment, / For life, for opportunities, / For friendship and fellowship, / We thank thee, O Lord.”
- Common table prayer
- Wilderness Grace
- ^ “grace, n”. Oxford English Dictionary. 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
11. A short prayer or blessing offered in thanks before or after eating.
- ^ Brother Lawrence, ed. (1996), Prayer Book (Fourth Edition – Revised), Jordanville, NY: Printshop of St. Job of Pochaev, Holy Trinity Monastery, p. 38
- ^ a b The Book of Worship for Church and Home: With Orders of Worship, Services for the Administration of the Sacraments and Other Aids to Worship According to the Usages of the Methodist Church. Methodist Publishing House. 1964. p. 229. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- ^ Jewish Dining Etiquette, About Dishes, retrieved 2007-09-01
- ^ Schechter, Solomon; Dembitz, Lewis N. (1901), “Grace at Meals”, The Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk and Wagnalls, p. 61, retrieved 2007-09-01
- ^ a b Waqf-e-Nau-Syllabus (PDF). Retrieved June 6, 2014.
- ^ Butash, Adrian (1993) Bless This Food: Ancient and Contemporary Graces from Around the World p.14, Delacorte Press
- ^ Prayer before eating International Sai Organisation
- ^ “S-F Scout Ranch Grace”. Boyscouttrail.com. Retrieved 2012-11-03.
- Mealtime Prayers from The Prayer Guide.
- Grace at Meals article from The Catholic Encyclopedia.
- Thanksgiving before and after Meals article from The Catholic Encyclopedia.
This page was last edited on 3 April 2018, at 02:05.
Prayers and graces
“Our ideal church — what is it then? Primarily it is this: … the natural emotions of love, awe, and gratitude common to all people, emotions that rise with the contemplation of the great mysteries of nature and being.”
— Rev. Celia Parker Wooley, Unitarian minister
On this Web page you’ll find a small collection of…
- words for chalice lighting,
- affirmations of faith,
- meditations for use at home,
- instructions for slient meditation,
- and songs to sing…
to help stimulate “the natural emotions of love, awe, and gratitude.” While I’ve collected them for Unitarian Universalist families with children, I hope other Unitarian Universalist adults will also find useful things here.
The Web site of the Unitarian Universalist Association has an online bookstore with lots more books and resources for all ages. I especially recommend the book Hide and Seek with God for younger children, and The Gift of Faith for parents. Teenagers may enjoy choosing one of the meditation manuals, which are collections of short poems or prose meditations written by various ministers.
Please note that all the material on this page is in the public domain (except the Unitarian Universalist principles, which the copyright holder grants permission to copy for non-commercial purposes), so you may copy this freely. I hope this small collection helps you to bring your Unitarian Universalism into your home.
— Rev. Dan Harper
Words for lighting a chalice at home
The flaming chalice has become the shared symbol of Unitarians and Universalists around the world, and in this section you’ll find words for lighting a chalice from Unitarians and Universalists all over the world.
Some families set aside time to be together each week, perhaps on Friday evening at or near sunset, or perhaps on Sunday evening before dinner. These are good times to pause and catch your breath as a family, while you light a candle or a flaming chalice. This would be a good time to use the chalice lighting words.
The light of the ages has brought wisdom and truth to all peoples, in all times of human history. We light this flame to remind us to seek wisdom in our own time.
— Dan Harper
We light this chalice to remember that life is born again every day.
Encendemos este cáliz como recuerdo de que la vida nace de nuevo cada día.
— La Sociedad Unitaria Universalista de España (Unitarian Universalist Society of Spain)
O hidden life that vibrates in each atom,
O hidden light that shines in each creature,
O hidden love that embraces everything in unity,
May all who feel one with you
Know that for this very reason we are one with all
O vida oculta que brilha em cada átomo
O luz oculta que brilha em cada criatura,
O amor oculto que tudo abrange na unidade,
Possa todo aquele que se sente um contigo
Saber que por isso mesmo é um com todos os
— adapted from Annie Besant by Paulo Ereno, courtesy Brazilian Unitarian Universalists
Just as the sun bathes us in its light, its warmth and its love,
So may the spirit of this chalice bless us with truth, life, and love.
— Derek McCullough, Australian and New Zealand Unitarian Association
We light this flame to represent our liberal religion:
A religion that stands for freedom and tolerance;
A religion that believes in the full use of reason;
A religion that offers hope that we can make the world better.
— Dan Harper
These are words you can say just before starting your meal.
Blessed are you, Holy One, Creator of the Universe,
who brings forth bread from the earth.
–based on an ancient Jewish prayer
Thanks for the grub,
— from Liberal Religious Youth
Cherished family, friends, and guests,
Let this food to us be blessed.
Bless those people who made this food.
May it feed our work for good.
— adapted from German Lutheran grace by Craig Schwalenberg
God is great, God is good,
Let us thank (her) (him) for our food.
— from Emma Mitchell’s family (children get to choose whether to say “her” or “him”)
Hold hands around the table.
Ask everyone at the table to say one thing he or she is thankful for that day.
Hold hands around the table.
Say: “Let us have a moment of silence to give thanks for the food we eat.”
15 – 20 seconds of silence is about right.
Affirmations of faith
The principles of the Unitarian Universalist Association are included here for the reference of adults and teenagers (in my experience, younger children have not found these to be particularly meaningful or comprehensible). I’ve also included some other affirmations of faith used by Unitarian Universalists.
We are Unitarian Universalists:
(make two U’s with hands) With minds that think,
(touch head with both hands) Hearts that love,
(put both hands on heart) And hands that are ready to serve!
(hold out hands, palms up)
Link to pictures showing hand motions.
May faith in the spirit of life
And hope in the community of earth
And love of the sacred in ourselves and others
Be ours this day and in all the days to come.
From all that dwell below the skies
Let songs of hope and faith arise;
Let peace, good will, on earth be sung
Through every land by every tongue.
— adapted from words by Isaac Watts
sung to the tune “Old Hundredth”
I will strive toward high ethical and moral standards in my personal life and in my life in the wider community.
I will work for the understanding and promotion of a religion of love, assuming a spirit of cooperation and tolerance towards other religious groups.
I will commit myself to keep formulating my own religious beliefs according to my individual needs, the needs of the world around me, my conscience, and my degree of maturity.
— adapted from First Unitarian Church in New Bedford
We, the member congregations of the Unitarian Universalist Association, covenant to affirm and promote:
- The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
- Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
- Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
- A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
- The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
- The goal of world community with peace, liberty and justice for all;
- Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.
The living tradition which we share draws from many sources:
- Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
- Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion and the transforming power of love;
- Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
- Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
- Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit;
- Spiritual teachings of Earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.
Grateful for the religious pluralism which enriches and ennobles our faith, we are inspired to deepen our understanding and expand our vision. As free congregations we enter into this covenant, promising to one another our mutual trust and support.
Prayers for individuals and families, for all ages.
I am only one.
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything.
But still I can do something.
And because I cannot do everything
I will not refuse to do the something
that I can do.
— Rev. Edward E. Hale
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
— Emily Dickinson
Cloak yourself in a thousand ways, and still I shall know you, my Beloved.
Veil yourself with every enchantment, and yet I shall feel your Presence, most dear, close and intimate.
I shall salute you in the springing of cypresses, and in the sheen of lakes the laughter of fountains.
I shall surely see you in tumbling clouds, in brightly embroidered meadows.
O beloved Presence, more beautiful than all the stars together,
I find your face in ivy that climbs, in clusters of grapes, in morning sun on the mountains, in the clear arch of the sky.
You gladden the whole earth and make every heart great.
You are the breathing of the world.
— adapted from Mohammad Hafiz, “Shams Ud-Dun”
Lead us from death to life, from lies to truth.
Lead us from despair to hope, from fear to trust.
Lead us from hate to love, from war to peace.
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe.
Peace. Peace. Peace.
— adapted from the Upanishads
God of love,
your name is goodness and holiness.
May your love be present in all the nations of earth,
just as I feel your love in my heart.
Grant us the food we need today,
grant all people the food they need today.
Forgive me when I fail, and
help me forgive those who fail me.
May I not be tempted by evil or wrong-doing —
may your love watch over me, and over us all.
— a traditional Jewish prayer, adapted by early Christian communities, and further adapted by Rev. Dan Harper
I will be truthful.
I will suffer no injustice.
I will be free from fear.
I will not use force.
I will be of good-will to all people.
— Mahatma Gandhi
Look to this day!
For it is life, the very life of life.
In its brief course lie all the truth
And reality of your existence:
The bliss of growth,
The glory of action,
The splendor of beauty;
For yesterday is already a dream,
And tomorrow is only a vision;
But today well-lived,
Makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.
— ancient Sanskrit source, in The Beacon Song and Service Book
Renew yourself completely each day.
Do it again, and again,
and forever again.
— Confucius, The Great Learning
(for parents/guardians and children together)
— Tonight I am thankful for…
(say some of the good things that happened to
you today)— And I am sorry for…
(talk about the things you feel sorry for doing
or saying)— Tomorrow I hope for…
(things you hope for and how you think you can
make them happen)
— idea from Rev. Christopher Raible
May the truth that sets us free,
And the hope that never dies,
And the love that casts out fear
Be with us now
Until the dayspring breaks,
And the shadows flee away.
— adapted from the Christian and Hebrew scriptures
The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world, and dances in rhythmic measure.
It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass, and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.
It is the same life that is rocked in the ocean-cradle of birth and of death, in ebb and flow.
I feel my limbs are made glorious by the touch of this world of life. And my pride is from the life-throb of ages dancing in my blood this moment.
— Rabindranath Tagore
I have just seen a beautiful thing
Slim and still,
Against a gold, gold sky,
A straight cypress,
A black finger
Why, beautiful, still finger are you black?
And why are you pointing upwards?
— Angelina W. Grimke
Silent meditation at home
It’s a good idea for children to learn how to do silent meditation. While a regular practice of silent meditation is not for everyone, knowing how to meditate in silence is a skill every Unitarian Universalist child (and adult) should learn.
Meditation is a great way to deal with the stresses of life, to become more calm and centered, to become more who you are. It’s not the only way to accomplish these things, but it’s one of the simplest.
If you are an adult who wants to teach the young people in your life to do silent meditation, one of the best strategies is to take the time to have your own silent meditation practice. By doing it yourself, you set a good example, and you can better help others as they learn how to sit in stillness and quiet. Adults and youth who want to learn a simple meditation technique can read The Relaxation Response by Herbert Benson.
Here’s one of the techniques I’ve used to teach silent meditation to young people at church:
I might start out by talking a little about how Henry David Thoreau lived in his cabin at Walden Pond, and how sometimes on a pleasant morning he would sit on his doorstep for hours at a time, lost in the beauty of the natural world — or, as he put it, “rapt in a revery.” His idea of losing yourself in silent appreciation of the natural world makes an authentically Unitarian Universalist meditation practice. Then I introduce the time of meditation, saying something like this:
- Take one of these natural objects, one that appeals to you. (Have a selection of pretty stones, attractive dried leaves or grasses, pine cones, etc.)
- Hold it in your hands, and admire it. Look at every detail. You don’t have to think of anything else.
- Now we’ll sit in silence for two minutes.
- (For this kind of meditation, we would start children off with two minutes of silence, and work up to longer times.)
- (We might end the meditation time by saying:) Let the beauty we love, be what we do.
When weather permits, this kind of meditation works even better outdoors. When you’re outdoors, young people can look around for their own natural object. Alternatively, you can have them listen to all the sounds of the outdoors, and at the end of your time of silence you can share all the sounds you heard (wind in the trees, birds, cars, perhaps animals, etc.). Or you can lie at the foot of a big tree and gaze up into its branches for a time of silence, as yet another form of outdoor meditation.
Finally, another simple way to introduce a time of silence to your family is to light a candle (or a flaming chalice), perhaps using some of the words for lighting a chalice that you’ll find in this booklet, and then just sit in silence for two or more minutes watching the candle flame. (If you light a small candle like a birthday candle, you can watch it until it burns all the way down). Often even people who resist the idea of silent meditation will like this practice.
Some songs to sing
The best source for Unitarian Universalist songs is our hymnal, Singing the Living Tradition. You can buy a copy of the hymnal from the Bookstore of the Unitarian Universalist Association at 1-800-215-9076. The hymns listed below are ones we sing in our church on a regular basis, and which are also good for singing at home.
If someone in your family plays the guitar, Singing the Living Tradition rarely provides guitar chords. But you can find guitar chords for some of these songs in Rise Up Singing, a popular songbook edited by Peter Blood and Annie Patterson. The numbers in parentheses in the list below refer to the number of the page in Rise Up Singing which has guitar chords for that song. (Note that Rise Up Singing has more traditionally Christian words for some of these songs.)
- #16, “‘Tis a Gift To Be Simple (47)
- #21, For the Beauty of the Earth (153)
- #38, Morning Has Broken (154)
- #108, My Life Flows on in Endless Song (43)
- #131, Love Will Guide Us
- #169, We Shall Overcome (63)
- #170, We Are a Gentle Angry People (218)
- #205, Amazing Grace (92)
- #305, De Colores (152)
- #346, Come Sing a Song with Me
- #348, Guide My Feet
- #362, Rise Up O Flame
Some Unitarian Universalist singer-songwriters have also written some good songs that express Unitarian Universalist values. Try listening to recordings by Pete Seeger, Malvina Reynolds, Utah Phillips, Fred Small, or the songs by Ysaye Maria Barnwell that are sung by Sweet Honey in the Rock.
Finally, I have a collection of Christmas and Yuletide songs elsewhere on this Web site .