It is a common practice for most Christians, whether it be a Tuesday taco night or a Thanksgiving festival, to say “grace” before dinner.
Our pre-meal prayers can range from simple, recited prayers to longer, more specific prayers, but they all do the same thing – thank God for the food and company we will experience.
But have you ever wondered why we are doing this? Is it just a common thing or is it a little deeper? By definition, prayer in any form is our chance to speak directly to our Creator and in this way we as Christians deepen our relationship with God. Whether it is saying thank you for a meal or asking God to help you through a difficult time, prayer is the lifeblood of our faith.
The Bible is full of stories of people who come together at a table to eat together. Whether you’re flying out to dinner alone or with the family on a vacation, here are four reasons why it’s important to pray before you eat:
1. Because we follow Jesus’ example.
One reason we pray before we eat is simply because Jesus did just that.
Throughout the Bible we see stories of Jesus feeding large crowds. As he fed fish and bread to thousands, “he looked up to heaven and spoke a blessing” (Matthew 14:19).
At the last supper, Jesus gave the cup to his disciples and told them that the elements were representative of his body and blood that had been given to them, and he thanked them.
Then, after his resurrection, Jesus and two men stopped on the way to Emmaus to eat with them. He “took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them” (Lk 24:30).
Again and again we see Jesus thank God in all things. Whether at a dinner with friends or in the Garden of Gethsemane, while waiting for his death, Jesus turns to his Father in gratitude.
To give thanks before eating our hearts agree with the commandment at 1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18, which tells us: “Always rejoice, pray constantly, give thanks under all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. “
2. To remind us that God cares for us.
Sometimes we can let ourselves be blinded by everything that causes us pain and forget to open our eyes to all that is good in this world. Even in the midst of the fire of life, God still works for us.
We will no doubt experience trials and sorrows on this earth and at these times it can feel difficult to believe that God has provided for us, cares for us, and will care for us.
We can rest in the promise in Matthew 6: 28-34, where God tells us that if He cares for the flowers of the field in the same way, He cares even more about his people:
So don’t worry and say, ‘What should we eat?’ or ‘What should we drink?’ or ‘What should we wear?’ Because the Gentiles are after all of these things, and your Heavenly Father knows you need them. But first seek his kingdom and his righteousness, and all this will also be given to you. So don’t worry about tomorrow because tomorrow will worry about itself. Every day has enough problems of its own.
Food is the essential nourishment of our earthly body, and the opportunity to enjoy a meal is evidence that God takes care of us and will take care of us.
3. To remind us that God gives us food and other things to enjoy life.
Yes, God wants us to enjoy life! Right in Genesis 1, God declared his creation to be good, which means that he is perfect as he intended. Everything that life includes – food, society, nature, beauty. Everything should be fine.
He gave us all of this to enjoy.
The book Preacher speaks of this above all.
The author writes in Ecclesiastes 2: 24-25: “A man can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in his own work. As I see, this is also from the hand of God, for who can eat or enjoy without him? “
Then again in chapter 5, verse 18: “I have found that this is good: that it is appropriate for a man to eat and drink in the few days of his life and to find satisfaction in his arduous work under the sun, God she gave – because that is her lot. “
In his book Hope for Happiness, author Barnabas Piper puts it this way:
“Our joy in friendship reflects our part in the body of Christ. Our enjoyment of work and creation underlines our status as an image bearer. Our joy in eating shows us that we are grateful for God’s provision and for the skills of the person who prepared the meal. The peace we find in cool breezes and rolling surf is the peace of the Lord shared through His beautiful creation.
“Indeed, God wants us to be happy. He wants us to enjoy and indulge and delight. God also wants us to be holy. So what a miracle of his wisdom and love it is that he has given us everything we need to find both. “
When we pray before meals, we come out of gratitude to God for the blessings of food, friendship, and fellowship that enrich our lives and allow us to enjoy our time on earth.
4. Realign our hearts with a spirit of gratitude.
We know the story of Genesis 1, and we know Adam and Eve ruined what should be good. We tend to do the same by inordinately eating, drinking, relationships, work, etc. We are sinful creatures who tend to think that everything is about us.
Turning a delicious meal into an opportunity to show gratitude to God is a good step in moving the limelight away from you and toward God instead.
Psalm 104 shows that we can bask in God’s provision for our lives. It is good to enjoy food and drink and to look forward to it. But do it with a joyful heart.
Piper also spoke about this in Hopeing for Happiness:
“Glorifying God through my food and drink (or whatever I do) doesn’t necessarily mean that I have to be serious. That means I have to be purposeful. It means that I have to look out for what is good in this world because ‘the earth belongs to the Lord and everything in it’. It means ‘to eat with gratitude’ and to embrace joy that God glorifies. “
Going one step further, as Piper explains, would mean always approaching these gifts with conscious gratitude. The old adage that too much of a good is bad is still true. We cannot rely on these things alone for our happiness, because our eternal and lasting happiness comes only from God.
“Gratitude never diminishes joy and always glorifies God,” he writes. “When we are unable to be grateful for a good cause, it probably means that something is wrong in our hearts (or we know that this thing is not really good for us).”
When we thank God for nourishing us, we recognize that all good and perfect gifts come from him (James 1:17). He is the source of all we have, and habitual prayer before dinner helps us remember this truth.
Praying with a grateful heart before we eat makes us more like Jesus, it brings joy and glory to God, and it recalibrates our minds to the love he has for his children, the gifts he gives us and the people who whom he gives us enjoy these gifts with.
Photo credit: @ GettyImages / monkeybusinessimages
Cole Douglas Claybourn is a writer and podcaster and lives in Bowling Green, Kentucky with his wife, Emily. Cole teaches high school English and is the host of the In No Rush podcast. His work has been featured in RELEVANT Magazine, Sports Spectrum Magazine, Outreach Magazine, Think Eternity and USA Today. He enjoys telling stories about where faith and creativity intersect and shares his story to help Christians find their own way. You can also find his work on coleclaybourn.com.