I grew up in a somewhat non-religious family in which saying "Grace" or thanking God before our meals was not a part of our family tradition. After we had our own family, we wanted to deepen our own faiths and teach our children how to pray before meals.
It seemed easy enough to thank the cook or host when invited to a meal, so why did it feel awkward to offer gratitude, thanks and praise out loud to God who provides us with all that we need from the farmer's field to the kitchen table? So I began very simply by buying a small book of table graces. Each member of our family got a turn to pick a blessing from the book and read it before the meal. Here are a few of my favorites:
Sweet is the work, my God, my King, To praise thy name, give thanks and sing. – Methodist Hymn 19th Century
O Thou who clothes the lilies,
Who feeds the birds of the sky,
Who leads the lambs to pasture,
And the deer to the waterside,Who multiplies the loaves and fishes,
And changed the water to wine,
Do Thou come to our table as giver
And as our guest to dine.
No longer forward nor behind I look for hope or fear;
But, grateful, take the good I find, The best of now and here.
--John Greenleaf Whittier 1807-1893
Give us Lord, a bit o'sun,
A bit o'work and a bit o'fun;
Give us all in the struggle and sputter
Our daily bread and a bit o'butter.
--On the wall of an old inn Lancaster, England
Choosing a different prayer made giving thanks to God fun and fresh before each meal. As praying before meals became a family tradition, it became easier to lift up a simple spontaneous prayer from the heart as well.
It is never too late to begin a new prayer practice, especially before meals. Whether you live with others or live alone, I invite you to give God thanks for your food out loud this week. A single grateful thought raised to heaven is the most perfect prayer