I often get asked to say the blessing before meals. It’s not an occupational hazard, but certainly an occupational expectation, something that comes with the territory. Like many of you, I sometimes struggle with what to say that hasn’t been already said.
Before going any further, some preliminary markers are in order:
-Saying grace before meals is a fundamental practice, something all of us should do! Giving thanks before a meal serves as an important reminder that all we have comes through God’s grace.
-Saying grace before meals in a restaurant or other public place can be a meaningful witness!
That said, my conviction is grace before meals should be short and to the point. This isn’t a time to remember salvation history or recount the activities of the day. It is about giving God thanks for what we are about to receive. I am disinclined to offer long prayers before meals and get a bit antsy (hungry) when others do… In other words, we need not worry about trying to say something new or different. Thanking God from our heart is what matters most.
But what is there to say beyond “God is great, God is good. Now we thank him for our food…”? I typically go with a variation of the blessing my father used – one that came right out of the Anglican Prayer Book: “Bless, O Lord this food to our use, and us to thy loving service. Give us grateful hearts, and make us ever mindful of the needs of others.” Nice! Those of you know me are familiar with my restaurant prayer, adapted again from the Book of Common Prayer: “For these and all thy mercies, may God’s holy name be praised and blessed, now and forever more.” When the food has arrived and is hot and you are hungry, this one gets the job done in a hurry!
Tuesday night at our RezMen meeting, Len Avery showed me a little book called Graces. It contains various types of blessings to be used before meals. I neglected to note the author and publisher of Graces, but want to share with you a few of the wonderful prayers it contains.
Lord, behold our family here assembled. We thank you for this place in which we dwell, for the love that unites us, for the peace accorded this day, for the hope with which we expect the morrow, for the health, the work, the food and the bright skies that make our lives delightful; for our friends in all parts of the earth. – Robert Louis Stevenson
Give us, O lord, thankful hearts which never forget your goodness to us.
Give us, O Lord, grateful hearts, which do not waste time complaining. -Saint Thomas Aquinas
And my new favorite:
In the name of the Father, whose loves sustains us,
And the name of the Son, whose life regains us,
And of the Holy Spirit, whose guidance maintains us,
We ask a blessing on this meal. -Theresa Mary Grass
If you are looking for something new to say for a mealtime blessing, give them a try!
See you Sunday!