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What It Really Means to Pray ‘Bless This Food’

What saying grace at the table really means

Thanksgiving grace
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Saying “grace” before a meal is a common practice, even for people who seldom attend worship services or who rarely pray at other times. Some repeat a traditional prayer such as, “Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Jesus Christ, our Lord, amen.” Others intone, “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blest. Amen.” Or, “God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hand, we all are fed, Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen.”

Most table graces include a request for God to “bless” the food. But have you ever stopped to think, What do we mean when we say “bless this food”? Didn’t God already bless it when He sent the rain to grow the corn and the sun to ripen the fruit? Are we asking Him to make the food tastier or more nutritious than the food our pagan neighbors are eating? Are we requesting protection against the ill effects of a cook’s poor skills?

It’s true that, in many respects, God has already blessed the food by the time we sit down to say grace—in most cases, anyway. In my case, He blesses it again through the expert work of my wife, whose skillful and loving efforts keep me roughly 20 pounds overweight.

But I still pray “bless this food” at times. Why? What do I mean? I can’t speak for anyone else, but I say it as an acknowledgment that it comes from God and that even after He has blessed it with sun, rain, soil and loving preparations, He can bless it further as I eat it with gratitude, good manners and possibly a little bit of moderation.

He can “bless this food” with the company and conversation that accompanies its consumption. He can bless it to me by helping me to stop eating when I’ve had enough and save what’s left for later instead of gorging myself or throwing it away. He can bless it still further if I find ways to reuse it or to share it with others.

He can even bless it by reminding me that I don’t eat only for the enjoyment of tasty food but also for the nutrition that keeps me alive and supplies energy and health. And, as long as I don’t over-indulge, He blesses the food by using it to fuel activity—such as work, exercise or playing with a grandchild—that honors Him and helps others.

What about you? What do you really mean when you pray, “Bless this food?”

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