How to pray before a meal

Last week I described why I choose to pray. This week I am going to describe how to pray before a meal. It is not a difficult thing to do. It really is not. But, it may cause you fear, especially if you have to pray before a meal in front of people that you do not know well. As with all things – you will get better with practice.

Many families pray before they eat

It is common for families to say a quick prayer before eating a meal. The main point of the prayer is to thank God that you have food to eat. Some families do not have food to eat – which is reason enough for us to give thanks that we do. Growing up my parents kept it simple. We said the following prayer before dinner which will be familiar to many. We did not pray before breakfast or lunch. I do not know why, but it really did not matter much to me.

God is good, God is great, let us thank Him for our food. Amen.

Simple prayer – short and sweet. Nothing wrong with saying this prayer. It is better than not saying anything at all. This short prayer is designed for young children. It is easy to remember, easy to say and does not require much effort. Perfect for little ones. Neither one of you boys is little anymore, so I think we can do a little better than this version.

Family saying grace before meal - keep it short with kids.
Family saying grace before a meal – keep it short with kids.

No reason to go long

I have witnessed many people pray before a meal. If there is one pet peeve I have about this topic it is people who go on and on praying before a meal. This sometimes happens at formal dinners, especially when there is a large audience. The person who says the blessing feels a need to include a lot of thoughts, and a whole lot of words. It is easy for a clergy member to fall into this trap. They know more about God than the rest of us and usually have much more experience praying in front of a large group. I do not believe that God is impressed with the eloquence of the words you use. He prefers a sincere heart to a puffy attitude. I recommend you keep it short and simple. No reason to go long.

Jesus kept his prayer short at the last supper.
Jesus kept his prayer short at the last supper.

What to say when you pray

The main point of praying before the meal is to thank God for the food on the table. Focus your words on that topic. Be sure to actually say thank you to God. Ask Him to bless the food. If the meal was prepared by someone who is sitting at the table, then you should also thank that person. There would be no meal without their work. One exception – if you prepared the meal do not pray for your own hands. That is weird. I also think it is appropriate to ask God to bless everyone that is with you – whether it is your family, friends, or people you do not know well. I have never heard anyone complain because someone else asked God to bless their life. Lastly, I like to pray in God’s name. Several different ways to do that. You can say “in the name of your Son, Jesus Christ”. Another version is “in your mighty name”, or “in your holy name”. It is not important which one you pick. Just go with the one you are comfortable saying. Below is an example of how I might pray before a family meal.

Dear Lord, I thank you for this day. I thank you for the food we are about to eat and the hands that prepared it. I ask you that you bless this food to our bodies. We ask a special blessing for our family. In the name of your son Jesus. Amen.

I might use a shorter version if I am praying at someone’s house.

God, I thank you for the food we are about to receive. Bless it to our bodies and the hands that prepared it. I ask that you bless each and everyone gathered here today. In your name we pray. Amen.

Praying at a special occasion

You may be asked to pray for a special occasion. For example, you may pray at a birthday party, before the Thanksgiving meal, Christmas, Easter, or another holiday. In these scenarios, I would go with a longer prayer, but not too long. If it is someone’s birthday you should pray for that person in particular by name. Ask God to bless them on their special day. A simple example is below.

Holy Father, we are gathered here today to honor Opa. Today is Opa’s birthday. We thank you for Opa, and ask that you bless him in a special way. We thank you for the food that we are about to receive. We ask that you bless it to our bodies and the hands that prepared it. In your mighty name we pray. Amen.

For Thanksgiving, you may want to take a slightly different approach. Some families will give everyone there a chance to say what they are thankful for before or during the prayer. Either way is fine. I think it is a nice way to give everyone the opportunity to show gratitude on this special holiday. If you choose to have everyone give thanks before praying simply go around the table, and then pray. No need to get fancy during the prayer. If you want to integrate everyone’s inputs into the prayer, then here is one way to do that.

Dear Jesus, we gather today to celebrate Thanksgiving. We give thank for your many blessings this past year. I thank you for (say what you are thankful for here). Now we are going to go around the table so that everyone has the opportunity to say what they are thankful for. Let’s start with (name of person seated next to you. Go around the table). We thank you for this meal and the hands that prepared it. We thank you for everyone seated at the table, and ask that you bless each and everyone of us. We thank you for those who serve our country, keeping us safe, especially anyone cannot be at home for Thanksgiving this year. In your name we pray. Amen.

Some people hold hands while praying on special occasions like Thanksgiving.
Some people hold hands while praying on special occasions like Thanksgiving.

For Christmas, I would thank God for sending His Son into the world to save us from our sins. On Easter, I would include something about the resurrection. Keep it relevant, and keep it real. Last bit of advice. If you ever have the opportunity to pray at a large gathering or in front of an audience, then I highly recommend that you practice your prayer beforehand. God will not get mad if you rehearse several times. I prayed for each of you the day you were dedicated in the Church. You better believe that I practiced many times, and knew every word I was going to say. The last thing I wanted to do was embarrass myself, your mother, or either one of our families. For God’s sake, whatever you do, don’t wing it.

 

Why I pray

Winter is here. It is the holiday season. You see it in the decorations, hear it in the music, and taste it in the special foods we eat this time of year. I really enjoy the holidays for many reasons. One tradition I delight in is gathering around the family table to enjoy a meal together.

Praying before the meal

For many families, it is normal for someone to say a prayer before the meal. It is part of the ritual and adds a nice spiritual component to any gathering. This year I am noticing that some people do not know how to pray before a meal. They really don’t. More specifically, I have witnessed several young men stumble and bumble their way through a pre-meal prayer. Usually, it is awkward, and they are embarrassed in the end. I am glad they had the courage to attempt to pray but slightly concerned they do not actually know how to. Praying before a meal is not that difficult, but I guess it can be a daunting task if you have limited experience or practice talking to God.

Many families say grace before a special meal.
Many families say grace before a special meal.

Is it important to know how to pray?

In the grand scheme of things, not knowing how to pray before a meal is not a big deal. It really isn’t. The meal is not ruined, and most family members will completely forget about the misstep quickly. But, I do think it is important that you know how to pray. It is a life skill that can really make a difference. It is a Christian discipline that you should exercise on a regular basis. Prayer has helped me immensely over the years. I think prayer can create the same positive impact for you. Therefore, I am going to devote the next few blog posts to this topic.

Praying can positively impact your life.
Praying can positively impact your life.

Why I choose to pray

Before describing how I pray, I thought it would be useful to share why I pray. In fact, I am going to share five reasons why I choose to pray. At this point, I feel it is important to say that I am not claiming to be a great man of prayer. The reality is that I am not that great at praying. I know that because I have heard many other people pray who are much better at it than me. I am not embarrassed to say that. Praying has been a struggle for me over the years. None the less, it is now a daily discipline for me. As a result, I have gotten better at praying the past few years. Like most things in life – you get better with practice. Do I miss a day every now and then – sure I do. I think many Christians miss a day of prayer every now and then…and God does not get mad at them.

This picture of a man praying hangs in your Great-grandparents dining room.
This picture of a man praying hangs in your Great-grandparents dining room.

I pray to give thanks to God

Every morning when I wake up I have many reasons to give thanks to God. I am alive today. God loves me. Jesus loves me. Jesus died for me. Because of his death and my faith in Him I will go to heaven when I die. I will be reunited with God, Jesus, and my loved ones in heaven, and we will live forever. That sure seems like plenty of reasons to thank God every morning. You should thank him too.

I pray to show gratitude to God

God has blessed my life in more ways than I can count. I have a roof over my head, food to eat, great kids, a loving family, a good job, and decent health. My blog post from last week includes more reasons we are blessed. I would include more blessings here, but the list would go on forever.

Studies show that gratitude is a healthy habit.
Studies show that gratitude is a healthy habit. Practice it daily.

I pray to talk with God

Praying is not complicated. You are talking with God. Nothing more, nothing less. My sense is that many people overthink prayer. They try too hard to use complicated terminology or speak in flowery language. I just try to talk with God about my life because I know He loves me and wants to hear from me like any loving father would.

I pray to ask God for help

I need help, a lot of help every day. You do too. We all do. The question becomes – where does your help come from? I choose to ask my heavenly father for help. Why in the world would I look elsewhere first? Why not ask the one who designed me, who created me, who created the world, who knows all, and who loves me. To not take advantage of God’s help seems crazy to me.

I pray to God because He listens

The last reason why I choose to pray to God is that He listens to me. I believe He does. I really do. Why else would I spend time praying? If God is not there listening, then all I am doing is talking to myself. That might be useful, but not overly helpful. I would rather talk with someone who listens to me. Many times it is hard to tell if someone else is listening to what I say. I know this is true because sometimes it is difficult for me to pay attention and listen to someone else who is talking. I think we all have that struggle. But, God is there for me, and He is there for you too.

Psalm 40

I waited patiently for the Lord;
    he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit,
    out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock
    and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth,
    a hymn of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear the Lord
    and put their trust in him

Nothing in this world is free – not even you

Last year you will recall that we stayed at an “all inclusive” resort in Cancun Mexico for Spring Break. While there you did not have to pay for any food, coffee, snacks, or drinks. It felt like everything was free…but it was not. The reality is that I paid the resort a fixed price for all of us before we left for the trip. Also, my parents paid for the room so that we could afford the trip. This type of vacation is designed for convenience, and I hope that you truly enjoyed it. I know that I did.

Gavin and Riley chilling  on the beach at the resort in Cancun.
Gavin and Riley chilling on the beach at the resort in Cancun.

The lesson to learn is that nothing in the world is really free. There is a cost for everything, even if you are not the one paying. It is easy to walk in this world without fully knowing this truth, particularly when it comes to your own life. Today is Easter Sunday. A special day for all of us who choose to follow Christ. Today we celebrate Christ rising from the dead in order to give us new life. I want to make sure you understand what Christ has done for you. He has paid the ultimate price with his own blood for you so that you can have new life. No one else could do what was needed. Don’t forget to thank Him for what he did so that you can live free.

I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly. John 10:10

Jesus is my answer – forever

If I could pass along only one bit of advice to you it is this- Jesus is my answer.  My faith in Him has made the biggest difference in my life.  I have experienced many victories and good times during my lifetime, but none of them compares to the joy that Jesus brought into my life, after I decided to follow Him.  I did not make this decision until later in life (in my twenties), and it is by far the best decision that I have made.  My prayer is that you too will decide to follow Jesus, and make Him Lord of your life.  I do not want to come across as some religious fanatic, but I want you to know my heart, and what Jesus means to me.  I will talk a lot more about my own journey towards salvation later in this document because it has been quite a journey, and it is the foundation of my life.

3 John 1:4  I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.