One winter, while a junior in high school in Fairbanks, a friend of mine invited me to have dinner with his family (we called the evening meal ‘dinner’ in Alaska). As his dad was plating the food and delivering it to the table one at a time, his mom began eating having been served first. As my plate was set before me, I refrained from eating as a courtesy toward the host. Mr. LaPerierre noticed me waiting and asked, “Spencer, are you waiting because you’re wanting to say grace?” At that moment, his wife, fork in mouth, looked at me with wide mortified eyes, filled with the realization that she may have committed a grievous faux pas.
Has something like that ever happened to you, folks begin shoveling food in their mouths before everyone even has a chance to sit down, much worse, discovering mid bite that a prayer of thanksgiving was going to be offered? Perhaps you’ve been the one with the fork in your mouth.
It’s called different things in different places. Some call it, ‘giving thanks’, ‘saying grace’ ‘asking a blessing’ or simply, ‘the blessing.’ As families come together this week to celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving, the above scenario will likely repeat as folks stumble through an awkward and unprepared prayer, while the rest choke down a premature mouthful or pause mid chew.
Is it your habit to ‘say grace’ for your food?
It may not, and not just for Thanksgiving. According to a recent poll, only about 43% of Americans pray before a meal. Of those that pray, the researchers discovered they only pray 2-3 times per week. When they examined denominational backgrounds, 52% of Catholics, 60% of Protestants and 74% of Evangelicals prayed before taking a meal. Interestingly, 80% of African American families prayed, regardless of religious affiliation.
It was surprising to learn so many folks were actually praying in America. However, surprise gave way to disgust as the pollsters found that it wasn’t necessarily God being thanked. Eleven percent who claimed to be atheist, agnostic or irreligious said a prayer. An atheist man, cited in a news article about the poll, said that he and his wife give thanks to the spirits of his food. When they eat beef, they thank the four-legged spirits, and the winged ones whenever they eat chicken. When eating veggies, he thanks the veggie spirits. Sounds like a veggie tale to me.
What does the Bible say?
Many who are reading this article already have a good handle on this subject, and I hope that had we been asked, we would have skewed the polling higher. Prayer is as much a subject of scripture as God Himself. We all know that it says, “Pray without ceasing” in 1Thessalonians 5:17, but did you know that verse 18 says “in everything give thanks?”
Among the “everything”, food is a daily opportunity to “give thanks.” We ought to be thankful for our daily food, “which God created to be received with thanksgiving by them that believe and know the truth” [1Timothy 4:3b].
Our Lord and Savior, Christ Jesus, lived an example of praying before eating. In John 6:11 He, “took the loaves; and having given thanks, he distributed to them that were set down; likewise also of the fishes as much as they would.” Then, during His final meal with His disciples, “he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he brake it, and gave to them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me” [Luke 22:19]. On the very night that he would be betrayed, Jesus knowing all things, was thankful. How simple a thing it is, and so worthwhile, to pause and to pray.
Our most Holy and Righteous Father,
Thank you for this beautiful day
For we know Father, only you can make our day.
Thank You for this food,
Which You created
And for the nourishment within it.
May it provide us the strength
For continued service in Thy Kingdom.
Please forgive us our trespasses,
For they have been many,
And we have been weak.
Your mercy, O Lord, endures forever.