The other day I was in a restaurant when an All-American family sat at the table next to mine. Mom, Dad, and two young teens. They ordered, and later when the meal came, they all bowed their heads. I was thrilled to see bold people actually praying publicly over their meal. But then, I realized that they were actually texting or checking their phones for messages. Bummer.
As children, we were taught to pray before the meal. Some families called it “saying grace,” or “giving thanks.” It was a sign of gratitude to God for all of His provisions. Sometimes we held hands, or even shared a Scripture. No, we were not allowed to use the popular kid’s prayer, “Rub a Dub Dub, thanks for the Grub.” One reprobate friend in college used to pray, “Good food, good meat, good God, let’s eat!”
During my college years, I had a part-time job at a truck stop, but not for long. My assignment was to sweep floors, take out the garbage, wash the dishes, etc. Most of my work was in the food preparation area. Friends, I saw things that led me to the firm decision to never eat in an all-night truck stop ever again. Further, I recommitted to praying over every restaurant meal because you never know what is going on in the kitchen.
There is a powerful Jewish custom of offering the Brachot (benediction) before eating a meal. Each benediction begins “baruch atah adonai elokeinu melech haolam (Blessed Are You G-d, our Lord, King of the World).” The Bible also instructs God’s people to pray after the meal. Deuteronomy 8:10 NASB, “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.”
Jesus often prayed before the meal. In Matthew 14 and 15, He prayed before He fed thousands. At the Last Supper, Jesus prayed as he broke bread (Luke 24). In 1 Timothy 4, Paul is teaching about what foods we can eat. He concludes by saying that praying over your food is a proper step. Verse 5 NLT, “For we know it is made acceptable by the word of God and prayer.” In Acts 27:35, Paul prayed before the meal when the ship was about to be torn apart by the storm.
In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul is teaching about giving gratitude and glory to God in all circumstances. In verse 30, he discusses food, and that there are proper guidelines for eating. Paul explains that he “gives thanks” to God for his meal. And this is good direction for us for several reasons:
1. There are many food-borne diseases that can cause us great discomfort. Pray before you eat
2. Chefs do not always live up to the highest standards. One day, my wife and I were eating in an upscale restaurant. There was a beautiful ladybug crawling in her salad! On another occasion, we found a roach in our restaurant plate of enchiladas. Pray before you eat.
3. Remember that God is the provider of all good things. Taking a moment to thank God for your meal is a sign of gratitude and humility. It is also a bold testimony to others that God is your Provider.
So, go ahead and take the time to pray before you eat. It can’t hurt.