Last weekend, my sons and I went to a car show. When we left, one son took the metro home to Virginia and I rode home to Maryland with the other. On the way, we stopped for burgers and fries but took them to go rather than eating at the restaurant. I remarked that I hated eating on the run but since he was pressed for time, we didn’t have to stay.
Once underway, he started eating and talking and I waited for a break. Before I could say anything, he asked: “Are you going to wait till you get home to eat that?” I answered, “no, just waiting to say grace before eating it.”
He paused, I prayed and then we enjoyed our burgers.
As we rode, we got into a discussion about praying before meals. His feeling was that God would rather you are truly thankful for what you have than to have you just repeat a bunch of memorized words before you put food into your mouth. He said something to the effect; “God prefers heartfelt thankfulness and graciousness to words muttered for the sole sake of habit and without real meaning. This really got me to thinking. What he said made a lot of sense. I have always prayed and thanked before eating, even if it was just a bowl of cereal. But, had I been praying out of habit and not true thankfulness?
We once had an evangelist at our church who bragged that he wasn’t embarrassed to pray in public and that in restaurants, he would stand and pray loudly over his meal. I remember a previous pastor once saying that his family prayed over the groceries when they brought them home and therefore did not have to pray over each meal. Two extreme examples, yes, but the latter made me wonder if that might not be sufficient?
At that point, it hit me. If I was wondering if a single prayer over groceries might take the place of praying over each meal, then I probably looked at the prayers as something I had to do, rather than something I wanted to do, out of love and respect for a Loving God that had supplied the food. More of a law—”thou shalt pray over each meal”—than true thankfulness. So, I decided (right after praying and asking God to make me more thankful) to do some bible study and see what God/Jesus had to say about praying over food. I had some questions that I wanted to find answers for.
• Should I pray before I eat or just be thankful in my heart or both?
• Does it matter what I am eating? (ie: stopping for ice cream, hot dog at a ball game, etc.)
• Did Jesus and the early Christians pray before each meal?
• Should I pray out loud or to myself?
• Is God really care if I pray before meals?
I believe the answers to the all the above are as follows; We should pray AND be truthfully thankful, it doesn’t matter what or where we are eating, Jesus and the early Christians set the example, it doesn’t matter if we pray out loud or silently as long as we pray, and yes, God does care. Consider the following:
Matt. 14:19—And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed, and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
Matt. 15:36—And he took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.
Matt. 26:26—And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.
Luke 24:30—And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them.
In Acts 27:35—And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat. and in 1 Cor. 10:30 For if I by grace be a partaker, why am I evil spoken of for that for which I give thanks? we see that Paul continues this practice.
And in 1 Tim. 4:4,5—Paul says; For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the word of God AND prayer.
Stonewall Jackson was once asked what he meant when he used the expression, “Instant in prayer.” “I will give you,” he said, “my idea of it for illustration if you will allow it, and not think that I am setting myself up as a model for others.” On being assured that there would be no misjudgment, he went on to say; “I have so fixed the habit in my own mind, that I never raise a glass of water to my lips without a moment’s asking of God’s blessing. I never seal a letter without putting a word of prayer under the seal. I never take a letter from the poet without a brief sending of my thoughts heavenward. I never change my classes in the section room without a minute’s petition on the cadets who go out and those who come in.” “And don’t you sometimes forget this?” “I think I can say that I scarcely do; the habit has become almost as fixed as breathing.”
Frequently, as we see in the above verses, Jesus prayed before eating. Paul continued the examples of praying before eating. When we thank God for providing our daily (not weekly when we bring the groceries home) bread, we are acknowledging that all things come from Him (Ephesians 5:20; Romans 11:36). He is the source of everything we have, and praying before meals as a habit (we need to develop this habit) helps to remind us of that truth. Praying before we eat with a thankful heart brings glory to God and centers our minds on His great love for His children and the blessings He bestows on those who belong to Him.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this discussion. Do you pray before meals? Why or why not?