It’s estimated that humans can go about three weeks without any food, and three days without water. What happens when you go without food and drink for extended periods of time? Nothing good, that’s for sure. When we go without food, our bodies experience different stages of complications such the breaking down of muscle, protein loss, weakened immune system, and plenty more. Fortunately for most of us, we don’t have to experience going extended stretches of time without food and drink.
“And you shall eat and be full, and you shall bless the Lord your God for the good land he has given you,”
Eating and thinking about God
Can you recall the last time you ate and thought about how the food is helping to nourish your body and helping it to function properly? How about reflecting on the fact that for so many, food and clean drinking water is a luxury? When we eat, especially when we’re “hangry”—the feeling of being so hungry that we turn angry and irritable—we’re usually thinking about how tasty the food is and how nice and full our bellies are getting.
That’s where praying before meals can give us a reality check.
When we make it part of our everyday routine to pray before we take that first bite of every main meal, we realize several important things:
- “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows,” (James 1:17). Sure you are the one who wakes up every morning, goes to work, gets a paycheck, goes grocery shopping and prepares the meals for your family; the food doesn’t just miraculously appear on your table. That’s true, but for the faithful, we believe that God in His mercy helps us find and keep employment, gives us health of mind and body to be able to go to work each day, and to be able to afford not only the food but the appliances with which we prepare delicious meals. This all comes back to the idea that we are nothing without God and that His hand plays a role in everything that is good.
- Praying before meals teaches young children to be thankful and not take things for granted. You help to open the dialogue about God and bring awareness to all those children who are forced to function on little food each day.
- Saying grace gives us the opportunity to take a moment in our hectic day and bring our focus back to God and what one of our purposes on earth is—to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. It helps to keep us in check when we get stuck fueling our obsession with surrounding ourselves with the latest material “stuff” when others are only thinking about getting a decent meal. It may even spark a fire in us to take action, such as donating to the local food pantry or soup kitchen.
Different versions of prayers to bless and gives thanks for your food:
While there are several versions of prayers before meals, the most common is:
Bless us, Oh Lord,
and these thy gifts,
which we are about to receive,
from thy bounty,
through Christ, Our Lord.
Here are other versions that can be used:
In a world where so many are hungry,
may we eat this food with humble hearts;
in a world where so many are lonely,
May we share this friendship with joyful hearts. Amen
May this food restore our strength, giving new energy to tired limbs, new thoughts to weary minds. May this drink restore our souls, giving new vision to dry spirits, new warmth to cold hearts. And once refreshed, may we give new pleasure to You, who gives us all. Amen.
The following are longer prayers that can be used on special days and holidays:
Blessed are you, Lord God, king of the universe:
you raised your beloved Son from the dead,
and made him Lord of all.
We turn to you in prayer
and ask you to bless us
and this food you have given us.
Help us to be generous toward others,
and to work with them so that they too may eat well.
may we all celebrate together
around your table in heaven.
We praise you and give you glory
through Christ our Lord.
we thank you for bringing us together for this meal:
may we continue to live in your friendship
and in harmony with one another.
Bless this food,
a sign of your loving care for us,
and bless us in our daily lives.
Bless your Church throughout the world,
and all those who seek to do your will today.
Father of mercy,
all praise be to you
through Jesus Christ our Savior,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
Whichever prayer you choose, say it slowly and deliberately. When you do so, the words speak to your heart making your meal taste even better—even the vegetables.