When I was growing up, table grace was a memorized, auto-pilot affair. We all sat down and, out of the corner of our eye, the split second we saw someone’s head bow, we all did likewise. If you had looked in from outside, you’d have thought someone said “Go!” but that never happened. We recited our memorized German table grace, and the moment it was done we reached for the platter of food nearest us. We wouldn’t have considered eating without saying grace; we were appalled when we saw people just start eating without praying.
What I know now is that we weren’t really praying; we were practicing a meal-time ritual, void of relationship and communication with the God we said we loved.
One day when my husband’s and my family consisted of just two children around our table, I was discouraged by the quick “Amen!” at the end of the prayer and then the race to eat. We decided to end that race by holding hands and squeezing hands after we were done. Sometimes we would sing a song before they could dig in. The purpose was to pause – not just to rush in.
As the children grew older, I noticed another problem: they would say their grace, but then complain about the food. That didn’t sit right with me. We talked with them about how God provides us with the food in the garden and the money to buy food from the store. Nothing on our table got there without God’s help. We also illustrated how grace sometimes is done by talking a few minutes to each other, saying the same thing over and over again – like a memorized prayer. The kids realized how boring that would be and finally understood that God probably didn’t like us saying the same exact words to Him all the time either.
From that day on we’ve practiced a more meaningful type of praying at our table. I can call on any of my children to say grace – even when we have guests. I love listening to them as they thank God for each person at the table or the events of the day. Sometimes they pray for friends, for those in need or for those who are sick, before they thank God for providing what we need to eat. Our guests are blessed by their prayers, and this has truly become a moment of communication with God, not just a memorized ritual.
I would like to challenge you to take a break from repeated, memorized table grace and start talking to God before each meal, thanking Him for what He has provided and even talking to Him about what has happened in your day. Don’t forget to ask Him to bless the food, but then remember not to complain about it!
How does table grace work at your house?
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