Levi Sisemore, Texas Normal Singing School
We’ve all seen it, maybe you’ve even done it: a group sits down to a meal, and as people begin to dig in, someone sheepishly (apologetically) suggests that we “say grace” before we eat. Heads bow and someone shouts out GRACE! and it’s all done. Maybe the first time this was done, there was some comedic element to it, but really it’s shallow and disrespectful to the idea of prayer and the God to whom we pray. Even if we lean on memorized phraseology our prayers, that’s better than mocking prayer. Maybe the simplistic “God is great, God is good; Let us thank Him for our food. Amen,” is all that we’re mature enough to say at the moment (The good/food rhyme scheme always bothered me, though – they don’t rhyme!); it’s still better than being tacky or ignoring prayer.
Yes, it seems to be less-and-less frequent in our culture, but saying a prayer with a meal never goes out of style. My Grandpa Gordon was the most consistent pray-er in our family. If I got to the table before him, Grandma made me wait for him to come – to “offer thanks” on behalf of the family. I somewhat feel that for us it was less about being thankful for that specific meal and more about taking time to pray as a family. I hope I will always hear my grandfather’s gravelly prayer voice: “Dear heavenly Father, we thank you for this day, the measure of our heath, and the food you have provided. We ask that you would ____ and forgive us of our sins. In Jesus’ name: Amen.” Additions were made, depending on situations and circumstances. Since we rarely skip meals in my family, it provided a convenient way to work prayer into our daily routine.
Maybe it comes off fake sometimes, like only “serious Christians” pray in public (and if you don’t consider yourself a “serious” Christian, then we have other things to talk about!), but this is really where relationship with God can begin to grow. Let us develop this act of spiritual discipline so that we can grow in our dependence upon God and our gratitude to Him for all that He does for us.
Prayer is one of those things you’re just supposed to let happen. I’m not calling us to babble inanely (to pray for prayer’s sake), but to let prayer be our natural conversation with God.
I’m told that it’s common among American Indians say a prayer before they eat, but that the prayer is directed to the spirit and essence of whatever they’re eating, thanking it for giving its life. Christians, our God is bigger than the food we receive!
“When you have eaten and are satisfied, praise the Lord your God for the good land he has given you” (Deuteronomy 8:10).