Wednesday, August 15, 2007


    Last night, while waiting for my car to be done in the shop, I went over to Applebee’s and ate supper. Since I was by myself, I had a lot of time to people watch—hopefully I didn’t freak anyone out by staring at them. I noticed that when their meals were served, several families said a prayer before eating. This caused me to wonder: What is the history of saying prayers before meals?

    Theologically, the Bible is full of stories with individuals giving thanks to God before sharing a meal. This seems simple enough. But if we pray before meals, as a sign of thanksgiving, when else should we be praying? Should we pray before we eat ice cream? Should we pray when we are thankful for something that we have?

    Perhaps these are really mundane questions. But, when working with youth, I occasionally wonder when I should be praying. On mission trips, we don’t pray at the fast food restaurants, but do pray when we stop at a rest station for a picnic lunch. At church camp, we pray before meals, but not before our evening snacks. On a recent backpacking trip to Colorado we prayed before we went to sleep at night, but not before we heated up our freeze dried meals (which, by the way, if you eat freeze dried meals and hike all day long for a week you will lose weight).

    Maybe it’s not so much when you pray, but rather, the intentions of your prayer. This, in turn, causes me to wonder: What happens when you say the same prayer day in and day out? For example, my wife and I, at each meal, say the Lutheran Common Table Prayer. I like this prayer: Come Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to be us be blessed. But, I have to admit that sometimes, perhaps because the meal smells so good, I rush through the prayer, simply going through the motions. Other times, I feel that this prayer really feeds (no pun intended) my soul.

    Does anyone else ever think these thoughts or am I just crazy?



    pastorwick said...

    There are times where, at the conclusion of a time with our youth...where I don't pray. I'm honest with the teens, and tell them I don't want to pray just to put a "period" on the end of our time together. Too often, I think we use prayer as a way to "end" something...instead of using it to communicate with God. But then...I think even in those moments, grace transforms our prayer into something good. So I dunno either. Good questions...

    Cory said...

    I think these are good thoughts. I've always resisted praying out of obligation or habit, but sometimes the practice doesn't hurt as much as it reinforces its merit, as is the case with most spiritual practices. I'm not suggesting praying for the sake of praying, but I am saying that maybe we should follow our instincts and pray when it seems appropriate.

    Danny said...

    I've found that even when I pray out of habit, it does some good for me. At meals, prayer focuses my thoughts on the food, where it came from, my connectedness to the earth, etc. Such prayer, I suppose, is more for me than it is for God, but isn't that true of all prayer?

    Brian said...

    My youth group does often pray when we are out at fast food places, particularly on mission trips. Lately, one of my adult leaders has used a prayer on a lamenated card that is written especially to say in a public restaurant and she passes it out and at each table one of the kids reads it while the others pray with them.