“Jesus, Thank you for this food and drink. Help it to nourish my body, in Jesus’s Name I pray, Amen.”
Such a short prayer, simple, and to the point, and so easily forgotten. As with many young Christians, I grew up praying before each meal. I was taught to do this; while I don’t remember the reason that was presented, I knew it was important. I have fond memories surrounding that prayer in particular. While family gatherings are often a mixture of bitter and sweet, I have always loved them – for the most part at least. My grandfather always used to call on me to pray over the family meal because of how quickly I prayed. I sped through the prayer just as you would the ABC’s when you suddenly forget what comes after R, or some other alphabetical situation that befuddles you. Theoretically, I was happy to pray, it comforted my conscious. “Look at me Lord, I remembered You before partaking in a blessing.” I felt like a good Christian when praying for my meal, like I was somehow holier for speaking a few words before shoving morsels in my mouth. If I accidently skipped this prayer, I would always feel guilty, thinking that suddenly God would be disappointed in me.
As I grew older, I found ways to recite this prayer with discretion. My friends at the lunch table did not share this particular ritual, and I’ve never been one for pushing my thoughts on others. I kept it quiet, closed my eyes, thought the prayer, and then would move on to eating. There was even a time where I struggled being ashamed of this prayer. What if people thought it weird or unnecessary? Now, I’m not even sure if my friends noticed the silence. Over the years, I have been blessed with friends that respected this time, and would automatically quiet down until I finished and looked up. Somehow, this helped my fear subside. I realized it didn’t really matter what people thought. We all have our own ways of doing things.
While I am no longer ashamed, something new has begun to run over my mind lately. One day, I was sitting, relaxing, I don’t even remember what I was thinking about when a thought hit me. That day in particular, I had prayed several times for the different meals I had eaten. I realized that each time, I had said that prayer without even thinking about it. The words flowed over my mouth just as your muscle memory allows you to punch in the code on your phone. God showed me the intent of my heart that day and it hurt.
“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” Proverbs 16:2
My prayers that day were no more righteous than the person who doesn’t pray over their meal. In fact, I would go to say my prayer, because of the motive, was not righteous at all. It was not the incense unto the Lord that I want my prayers to be (Psalm 141:2). It was hypocritical. I prayed thanksgiving to the Lord just like the Pharisees did (Luke 18:9-14), so that people could hear me, so that I could hear me. I truly was not thankful for the food that Jesus had given to me. Scripture says that every good gift comes from God (James 1:17) I may be wrong, but I consider food to be a good gift. A gift that I ought to truly be thankful for. In everything, I should give thanks. It’s easy to give thanks in the great things. It’s easy to remember that I should give thanks in the hard times. Yet, those days that seem mundane, the average ones where nothing sticks out, those are the days that I often forget just how good I have it.
I choose to continue praying over my meals, not with a guilty heart, nor with a habitual heart, but with one that will grow into a thankful heart. Maybe praying over your meal is not necessary, maybe it is. I am not God. I look to our example and see that Jesus blessed the meals that He ate many times in scripture. However, while learning about the heart of my God, I want to say this. I do not believe that the prayer is what really matters to our Lord Jesus. He knows the motive behind the action, and someone with a thankful heart is what pleases Him.
I pray that the Lord will continue to soften our hearts to the motives behind our actions, that we may have a heart after His.