bless this food

When my brother in law was a child, he was running across the dining room and smacked his giant blond noggin squarely on the dining room table. His parents while they comforted their toddler said “why don’t you pray that God would help your head feel better?” So Joe prayed the only prayer he knew as he placed his little hands on his head; “God bless this food!” to the great amusement of his parents.

This is a “twofer” blog- one about both food and prayer. Partly because I’m in the middle of meetings and don’t have time to write two separate posts, but also because as I always write about how our bodies and spiritual lives are interconnected and mealtime prayer is something many people have once practiced or do practice.  I also need to write about being present for the birth of my friend Gracee’s son!

welcome Rhys!!

welcome Rhys!!

I can remember times in my life where meal time prayer became as rote as reciting the ABC’s- a ritual rather than a meaningful time of reflection. I think prayer can become like this for anyone if the focus is on just getting through it rather than connecting with God. The problem isn’t praying, it’s how our heart is poised towards God as we pray. I don’t want to give the impression that I have a transcendent experience every time I sit down with a steaming bowl of black bean soup, but as I’ve tried to be mindful of what I’m eating, it’s created more space in my life to be thankful for the food God has provided for me.

Pre-industrial age, and even now, our workday is built with natural pauses to eat which for Christians and people from other faith backgrounds have a fixed time to pause and thank God for his provision in life, to ask God to strengthen their bodies with the food he’s given and to ask for health and protection. Maybe now with swine flu going around people will be praying more before they eat :)? In recent years as I’ve prayed, “God bless this food to my body, and us to your service” I’ve really given a second thought to whether the food I’m eating is actually blessing my body. It’s been fairly convicting to sit before a Whopper that is full of stuff that isn’t very nutritious or healthy and ask God to bless it to my body.

I ate one of these the other day and felt so gross afterwards. I was so thirsty for hours because of the amount of sodium in the burger.

I ate one of these the other day and felt so gross afterwards. I was so thirsty for hours because of the amount of sodium in the burger.

I once heard someone say asking God to bless food that you know isn’t a healthy choice is like asking him to do a miracle or even absolve you of the guilt of making choices that don’t care for your body. I’m not saying I never eat junk food- this past weekend has been a burger and fries fest for me. Its caused me to stop and ask myself- “what’s going on in my life that I want to eat what’s quick and easy rather than sit down and eat a meal that’s a healthier choice?”

Food and eating is such a tangled complex issue for people that I also think praying before you eat can be a way to invite God into your “eating issues” whether you struggle with gluttony or anorexia or anything in between. Praying with thanksgiving helps us to see food as a blessing rather than an area of guilt, punishment or indulgence. We can pray for a spirit of celebration when we enjoy a delicious meal for someone’s birthday rather than beating ourselves up for enjoying a piece of chocolate cake. We can pray as I have been during my travels that God would give me strength to practice self discipline and not emotionally over eat because I’m tired or stressed. We can pray that God would strengthen our bodies as we slurp a hot bowl of chicken noodle soup, enjoying the steam wafting up to a stuffy nose.

My inlaws actually sing their mealtime prayers which was really uncomfortable for me when I first joined their family. Prayer might be really uncomfortable for you & that’s ok! However, like singing mealtime prayers was strange for me, I’ve gradually enjoyed it though because it does seem to foster more of a spirit of celebration around food when we sing mealtime graces such as:

Thank you for the world so sweet,
Thank you for the food we eat,
Thank you for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything. Amen.

Did you pray at mealtimes as a child? Do you still pray at mealtimes? Do you just pray what is on your heart or use some sort of a memorized prayer? My prayer and eating challenge to you today is to stop and pray before your meals this week. Whether you believe in God or not, take a minute to reflect on what you’re eating & be thankful for the food that God has provided for you. You may even want to use the prayer I posted above!

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7 thoughts on “bless this food

  1. Hi Jessica!
    I just found your blog thru Tina at Carrot’s n Cake and am LOVING it!! I love your philosophy and message and will take you up on your challenge for this week! I admit I am lacking in my meal-time prayer and look forward to it.

    xoxo
    Berni

  2. 🙂 I’m going to sound like a crazy person, but I forbid E to pray that prayer at meal times.

    *don’t hate me!*

    I only forbid it because she did not understand it back then. Which raises a whole other can of worms. I swear I’m not anti-liturgical (you know that).

    In any case, I agree with you. I first learned to sing at meals up at Cedar Campus. I love it for the same reason I love singing with God’s people.

    And E has a new prayer she sings. Simpler than the previous prayer, but pretty cute just the same.

  3. I would never hate you for having a different opinion Jeff- you know I love a healthy dialogue! What was confusing to E about it? It’s not my favorite mealtime grace, but I know that kids can make weird connections with things sometimes. What is the prayer she sings now?

  4. As a kid we had a rote prayer we prayed every night at dinner. Then when I was about 10 and my Mom was really involved with BSF she said we weren’t praying that way anymore. She said God wanted to hear from us in a more “real” way and started asking us what we’d like to pray for and then praying for those things before the meal. I think that was a good thing for us since we were never taught to pray at any other time of day (like no bedtime devotionals or anything) so that was our only “chance”, kwim? I like sung prayers, mostly since Cedar Campus, and hope to incorporate them into our dinnertime prayers in the future, but also plan to teach my children about having a spirit of prayer and the idea of constant prayer, etc.
    (Oh, and we never prayed before a meal in a restaurant…my Mom felt convicted that it was just “showing off”, or being pharisee-like so we never did it. Looking back I think it was likely something she struggled with, like she knew her own heart was being prideful, praying in public like that with her family, so she just didn’t go there…)

  5. Jessica,

    That was the prayer they learned (not really sang) at her Lutheran Preschool. Maybe singing it would be more appropriate because it would indicate celebration. I think what bugged us about it was the she recited it in an unenthusiastic wrote memorization way. I’m sure it also has to do with me and Jeff and our NT personality. What’s so sweet about this broken world anyway ;)?

    It also felt generic for 3 years olds. “World so sweet” “Thank you God for everything.” There were only two specific things about God in the prayer – that he created birds and food.

    Now she prays (to the tune of London Bridges):
    Thanks you Jesus for our (lunch/snack/dinner).
    Thank you Jesus for our (lunch)
    Thank you Jesus.

    Anyway, it’s actually really good to hear that the Ficks sing the other one and that it’s meant to be a song. Makes more sense to me 🙂

    Lisa

  6. Kate, I feel so bad that after BSF they made your mom feel like yall couldn’t write prayers! that’s really sad to me. there’s so much about BSF that’s good & then the bad is stuff is just… yuck. anyway, thoughtful post Jess.

  7. Grace: I meant “rote” as in the same prayer every night (Bless this food to our bodies and us to your service, amen…for example). Sorry, that was a confusing way to put that! (but for what it’s worth I agree about BSF, my Mom actually switched to CBS a few years back as a result of some frustration with BSF…but that’s another story!)

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