I grew up in a family where we always prayed before we ate. We had different ways of saying grace for various places and occasions. Lunches and suppers at home began with “God is great, God is good, Let us thank God for our food” or “Come Lord Jesus be our guest and bless what Thou has provided for us.” These prayers were usually recited in unison. Breakfast time was different, because before the meal my Dad read a Scripture passage and a short devotional. Then we all paused for a moment while he asked God to be present with our family members during the coming day.
At my grandparents’ home we always prayed in German. Although some of us didn’t speak the language fluently, we had all memorized two different German graces, Segne Vater and Komm Herr Jesus, which we repeated with our aunts and uncles and cousins when we gathered for communal meals. On holidays like Christmas and Easter my grandfather prayed aloud while the rest of us bowed our heads silently. Meals at our church usually began with the four part singing of the doxology, “Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow.”
The practice of giving thanks for food is an ancient one in many different cultural groups. Our family lived on the Hopi Indian Reservation in Arizona for a year. Before celebatory meals in Hopi homes, small portions of food were taken from each serving dish. These were placed just outside the door of the house on the ground. I was told this was a way of saying thanks to the spirits who lived beneath the earth, for making the soil fertile enough for crops to grow.
Gratitude is good for our mental health. Pausing to give thanks before a meal can be meaningful.
“For food in a world where many walk in hunger;
For peace in a world, where many walk in fear;
For friends in a world where many walk alone;
We give thanks.”
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