There’s a pretty funny meme about our Grace Before Meals that’s been making the rounds lately. In the background is the painting of an old man with his hands folded and his head bowed over his daily bread. Above that, the caption reads something like, “No rapper can pray faster than a hungry Catholic” while the speech bubble coming from the man says, “blessusolordandthesethygift….”
And I’ve got to admit, every time I see it I chuckle. Not just because it’s funny (which it is), but because it’s true!
My grandad was legendary in our family for literally being able to say grace in the time it took him to make the Sign of the Cross. Now, there’s no way that man was ever anything less than respectful and reverent. I truly think he prayed that fast because he had raised seven kids. And whenever we had whole-family dinners there couldn’t have been less than 30 people waiting to eat, many of whom were small children. If he hadn’t prayed quickly, there might have been mutiny!
Taken for Granted
That said, it’s easy for our common, everyday prayers to be said flippantly. When we say something so many times a day, every day, every year, our whole lives long, how can we not start to take it for granted?
Of course, that doesn’t mean that we don’t believe what we’re saying or disregard the meaning behind it.
But when was the last time, in the hustle and bustle of life, that you really considered every word you prayed as you bowed your head over your dinner?
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The Deep Meaning Behind the Prayer Before Meals
So, that’s just what we’re going to do now. Line by beautifully-simple line, let’s work our way through the Prayer Before Meals.
Bless us, O Lord…
Funny, isn’t it? We start our prayer by asking God to bless us, not our food! When we ask for this blessing, we’re asking God to make us holy or consecrate us. We ask that He pour His divine favor on us.
At every time of day, whenever we take the time to nourish ourselves physically, we ask God to nourish us spiritually.
…and these, Thy gifts…
These same words have been said over everything from a multi-course gourmet meal to a bowl of Cheerios. And every one of those meals is gift.
Whether we are alone or with a group, in public or private, we ask our Heavenly Father to bestow on our food the same favor and blessing we asked for our bodies. Whether it’s hamburgers or steak, it doesn’t matter. We need to recognize that our food is a gift that we use to nourish our bodies and sustain us as we go.
My husband’s Methodist grandfather always prayed that God would, “bless this food for the use of our bodies and us for Thy service.” I always loved it when he put it that way.
…which we are about to receive from Thy bounty…
Raise your hand if you have ever said this line with food in your mouth (I expect to see every one of your hands raised!). We’ve all been there—thanking God for the food we are about to receive while that food sits in a half-chewed wad in our mouths.
Here’s another question for you. How many of you have ever gone apple picking? Or, if not apples, then maybe berries or something. Or maybe you are one of the lucky ones who have a green thumb and you have your own gardens in your own backyards. Is it not true that when you know exactly where your food comes from, if you’ve picked it yourself even, it just tastes better?
Wouldn’t it stand to reason, then, that if we look at our food as being a gift from God’s loving bounty, we might appreciate it more?
…through Christ our Lord.
What does it mean to pray or to ask for something “through Christ our Lord?” Well, in this instance, I believe we are asking our Brother, Who is fully human and fully divine, to shower His grace upon us and our sustenance during our meal. The same Jesus who broke bread at the Last Supper. The same Jesus who comes to us during the ultimate meal of Thanksgiving during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.
“But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift.” (Ephesians 4:7)
Amen simply means I believe! I believe that God wants to send His blessings upon each one of us, our bodies, and the food that we eat to sustain us. I believe that our lives and the food we eat are gifts that come from the bounty of the Lord. And I believe that the grace to use that food as nourishment to go into the world and live the life our Father would have us live comes to us through Christ.
Amen? Amen, indeed!The Prayer Before Meals #BISblog // Click To Tweet
Beth Williby is a regular contributor to the BIS blog. She is a mom of four pretty amazing humans and has been married to her college sweetheart for twenty years. She does her best praying through singing and feeding the people she loves. Having grown up in the Midwest, she now calls Northeast Florida home. You can find out more about her here.