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.