Friday, November 20, 2015

Saying Grace

Coming into the restaurant you could see her squirreled up by the corner window all by herself.  A simple lunch of a baked potato and iced tea were pushed away from her making room for her arms.  

Hunched over with elbows on the table, tired hands cradled her head. You could see that her eyes were closed as she massaged her forehead and temples with the tips of her fingers. 

Obviously she had a major headache … bless her heart. 

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The Mormon Headache 

I’ve never heard of this demonstration of “fake” headaches as the Mormon headache.  To be fair it isn’t limited to any particular religion or faith when it comes to silent prayers in public, so please stop blaming Mormons.  

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m that girl with the fake headache in the restaurant.  It wasn’t that I was ashamed of being a Christian; I just didn’t know how to go about living my faith in public without drawing attention to myself.  The fake headache gag was something I did quite often when I was a young(er) believer to overcome what I felt was awkward. 

I’ve come a long way since then, but has my faith matured with me? Have I become legalistic when it comes to the mandatory open prayer over meals? What about when I’m a guest at someone’s table who doesn’t practice what I believe, should I force the issue? Even Jesus gave thanks for the food that He served to the multitudes. 

“And He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and the fishes, and gave thanks, and brake them, and gave to His disciples, and the disciples to the multitude.”
 (from Matthew 14:19 & 15:35-36)
 

Instructed to Pray  

Have you ever had a time when you were reading something for the hundredth time and then a phrase jumps off the page at you?  That’s what happened last week in my evening Bible reading.   

I was simply reading my regular “Read through the Bible Schedule” when I had to stop and back up in my reading.  It was part of a letter the apostle Paul wrote to Pastor Timothy, but these two particular verses caused me to do a re-read.   

It wasn’t the rebellious vegetarian aspect, because I understand that every good gift is from the Lord.  There was something else that made me stop and take in what the Lord was saying to me concerning this reference on eating. Take a look: 

“For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.  If you put the brethren in remembrance of these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, which you have carefully followed.”

I agree Paul was teaching that food was to be received with prayer and thanksgiving, but he wasn’t just speaking about things we eat. The apostle was talking about faith, Christian lifestyle and tradition as well. 

However, what stood out was that this came to my attention about the time my husband and I were discussing the issue of people not praying over their food in public.  We noticed Christians weren’t even saying grace. 

Tradition or thankfulness to pray over meals? 

In the Jewish tradition they don’t say “grace” or a “blessing” before they eat, but rather after as acknowledgement to God for His provision as indicated in Deuteronomy 8:10.  The after eating prayer is quite long and includes thanksgiving for other blessings as well.  They give thanks for the blessed land that produced the bountiful harvest of food for their tables and for being able to sow to the poor or needy. 

“When you have eaten and are full, then you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.”
(Deuteronomy 8:10 NKJV) 

Some believe that it is merely maintaining an attitude of thanks that is more important than the actual prayer, but I don’t think that’s what Jesus meant. Praying in public (not those long prayers where people want to make a scene to be noticed) is a witness of what we believe about God and His Word.  If we are truly thankful for the food we are blessed to have provided for us, shouldn’t we give thanks to the One who has given the provision? 

I recently read about a woman who explained that when she prays with thanksgiving for the food she is about to eat, she also prays for those who are starving asking God to meet their needs. Praying for what we are about to receive is a good way to remind ourselves of the favor of food in our lives. 

There are some who think it’s legalistic that they “have to” pray openly because they don’t believe it is a valid vessel for sharing the message of Christ.  They want to keep it private and thank God silently. 

Maybe you fall in that area of not wanting to pray because you know as soon as you start the waitress will show up to take your order. That has happened to us a ton of times, but it hasn’t stopped us from praying in restaurants. On the other hand, it has helped us with our timing of when we pray. 

 
A few months ago I posted a question on Google+ asking if anyone felt they needed to pray again when they had leftovers since they originally prayed over the meal.
 
The response was rather humorous, though not intended.  

Some said that since the food was already blessed, they didn’t need to do it again feeling it was “safe” to eat.  One man said he prayed based on who made the meal, especially if it was his mother-in-law. 

 A few claimed that they didn’t pray over snack foods because it really wasn’t a “meal”.  Others said they prayed every time they ate something, no matter how small the meal or how many times it had been reheated.   

I remember not asking my little brother Alan to pray over the food, because he would ask blessings on everything that was on his plate listing food items one by one.  We finally had to stop him from praying over every bite explaining that if he prayed over the meal he was good to go. 

For those who don’t pray over their food at all, are they living by faith hoping God will protect them or is it a step on the stupid side? I’m not sure.

To me, praying for the food we’re about to eat is an outward acknowledgement of what we say we believe.  It ultimately makes the statement that we give credit to the One who has made the food possible for us to partake. 

Survey Says 

Just out of curiosity I researched on the practice of “saying grace” or “the blessing” over meals.  There were three I found intriguing. 

The first survey asked over 6,750 people: “Do you bless your food in public?” Here are some responses. 

5% said they prayed before they went into the restaurant.

7% still do the religious headache bit. (I knew I wasn’t alone.)
 
8% did the deep stare approach.

34% said they do a variety of things.

46% said they don’t pray in public, but do at home. (Hmm .. I wonder.) 

The second survey I researched was even larger. 

1,248 people said they weren’t raised to pray, but now do it all the time.

312 said they have never said a prayer in public for food.

14 people said they only pray when they eat alone or with their family.

14 said they didn’t do it growing up and still don’t.

832 people said they were raised to say grace in public and still do no matter what others may think.  

The last survey that I want to share wasn’t that big, but I like the results.  The question that was presented to Americans asking how frequently they said “grace.”  You can see that the country is practically split down the middle when it comes to daily blessings over food. 

44% said they do say grace at mealtime and pray daily

46% offer occasional prayer or never say grace

10% admit they might say grace only once or twice a week 

Here is something I think you might be surprised to learn.  If you are seen praying before your meal in Mary’s Gourmet Diner in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, you will be favored with a 15% discount off your meal!  God bless you Mary for acting on what you believe. 

In a call to action, do your own polling or survey this week observing how many people you see praying in public. 

Remind Others of This 

“For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving: For it is sanctified by the Word of God and prayer.  If you put the brethren in remembrance of these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, which you have carefully followed.”
(1 Timothy 4:4-6) 

Glancing back at the passage the Lord pointed out to me, the surveys confirmed what we witnessed about people not saying grace.  There is another reason why we should pray over our meals. 

Understanding that we are given permission by God to partake of the bounty He has provided is great, but there is something that goes with being able to eat what we want – thanksgiving. 

When we give thanks, the food becomes sanctified by God’s words through our prayer.  When God sanctifies what we want to eat, that means it’s now fit to be received into His temple (our bodies).  It’s like He gives the caterer permission to enter the building. 

Basically food becomes sanctified as safe when you pray, so I think I’ll keep saying grace. 

Washed in the Heart 

Do you remember when Jesus reprimanded the Pharisees for telling tales that the disciples hadn’t washed their hands before they ate?  He remarked that they were more concerned with the outward cleanliness than actually loving God. (Mark 7:5-6)  They weren’t washed in the righteousness of God, but wanted to follow traditional law. They weren’t eating for the glory of God.   

“Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do,
do all to the glory of God.” (1 Corinthians 10:31 NKJV) 
 
Does this instance coincide with what He taught on giving thanks for what God has provided? 

Following the practice of praying over our food isn’t really the focus of why we should pray.  Our reason for praying is to bless God, the provider of all things and give Him thanks for what He has brought into our lives.  Prayer is an active part of a person who believes God.

Whether or not you pray openly, a believer should make it a practice to thank and bless the Lord for His provision.  Saying grace with those who proclaim their faith in Christ is something we all should be honored to do with one another. 

Why We Gather Together 

When I was in public elementary school we learned many songs about giving thanks to God such as “We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessings.”  Why do you gather? Is it just to have a meal or do you focus on the blessing? 

Charles Wilden (BTW that's a dictionary not a Bible.)
I love gatherings at my sister’s. She has a picture that has hung in her kitchen for over forty years called “Grace” by the photographer Eric Enstrom.  It depicts an older gentleman sitting at a table with a loaf of bread saying grace for what he was about to eat.  

The man in the photograph was a Swedish immigrant who lived in a sod house in Minnesota. In 1926 the peddler Charles Wilden received the sum of $5.00 for posing as if he was saying grace.  Immediately the photograph sold thousands of copies becoming one of the most popular pieces of artwork in homes across America. 

Although Wilden waived his rights to the photograph, Mr. Enstrom tried looking for the peddler to pay his royalties, but was unsuccessful in his attempt. 

When I enter my sister’s home I look for that photograph as a reminder of what I am thankful for, and to reflect on blessings of grace (unmerited favor) from God.  Isn’t that what the gathering should be about anyway? Isn’t that another reason to say grace? 

Do Ye Likewise 

Have I become a traditionalist or legalistic because I want to pray over my food, whether or not I’m in public? No, I’m practicing what I believe Jesus would have Christians do, without drawing attention to myself or make others feel uncomfortable. If I pray openly in public I do it quietly when with others, or share with my guest that I would like to pray. 

Whether or not you choose to pray openly is between you and the Lord, but I’d like to point out a few more things you may not have realized about saying grace. 

We learned about the Lord praying over the food when He fed the thousands, plus He gave us examples on how and when to pray throughout scriptures. Jesus even prayed before administering the Lord’s Supper, as recorded in Matthew 26: 26-29. Likewise Paul did the same in 1 Corinthians 10:16 in what we call “Communion.” 

Paul also stated that those who remind others to pray (over food) are being good ministers of Jesus Christ and encourages in faith. (from 1 Timothy 4:5-6) I want to be a good steward for Christ and that’s why I pose this week’s “grace” challenge. 

This Week’s Challenge:
Remember to Say Grace 

This week America will be celebrating the holiday Thanksgiving, a day set apart where we are to actually give thanks to God for bestowing favor and grace through blessings on His children. 

Instead of going around the table having everyone share what they are thankful for this year, have them say it in a prayer. 

The Saying Grace Challenge: Say “grace” (the blessing) before you eat and give thanks by asking each person to pray a continued prayer with the head of the family closing.  

When we do this we grasp hands making an unbroken circle around the table. The person on the right hand side of the head of the household begins the opening of the prayer and gives their thanks to the Lord.
 
When the person praying is done giving thanks they squeeze the hand of the person who is next in line to pray, signifying they are finished saying their grace prayer.   

Continue giving thanks in prayer until everyone around the table has said grace ending with the head of the household where they close saying, “In Jesus’ name, Amen.” 

Not only do I want to encourage you to participate in a family grace prayer, I hope that you will gladly say grace every time you eat whether it is open or silent.   

“Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 4:2 NKJV) 
 
 
Thanksgiving Song - Mary Chapin Carpenter
 

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Until next time, favor God with prayers of thanksgiving! 

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“Pray with thankful hearts.”
Jesus Christ 

Note: The words satan or devil are not capitalized deliberately, because we give him no place in our lives.
Disclaimer: Article information is not meant to be used as treatment for mental or physical issues, but geared toward spiritual awareness. 

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Scripture reference was taken from the New King James Bible Version provided by Gateway Bible
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2 comments:

  1. I loved reading this very timely post (which I will share)! You addressed some important questions and made some great points. I pray that you and your family have a truly blessed Thanksgiving!

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    1. It's sad that this seems to be a hot topic of debate among believers. There were many more aspects that could have been shared, but I think there are plenty for us to think about in our own prayer life. At lunch today it my husband joined hands with our friends as he prayed. I'm thankful he is willing to do so. Thank you so much for sharing this post. I hope it brings light to some and encouragement to others. Happy Thanksgiving Susan.

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