Can you make room for the Bread of Life at your dinner table? Mealtime prayers, also known as Grace at Meals, help us stay close to God as we ask for, and acknowledge, His blessings as He gives us “our daily Bread” as we say in the Lord’s Prayer. These two mealtime prayers are short and simple.
GRACE BEFORE MEALS
Bless us, O Lord and these Your gifts which we are about to receive from Your bounty. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
GRACE AFTER MEALS
We give you thanks, Almighty God, for all Your benefits, who live and reign, world without end. Amen. May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.
Mealtime prayers go back centuries. They were an important part of Jewish tradition as far back as Moses’s time in the book of Deuteronomy (8:10). The early Christians included them in a treatise called The Teachings of the Twelve Apostles, better known today as the Didache, written sometime around the first century AD. One of the early Church fathers, St. Clement of Alexandria observed that “before taking nourishment it is fitting to praise the Creator of all things.”
As mentioned above, Christ referred to Himself as the Bread of Life in John’s Gospel (6:48) reminding us about our need for spiritual as well as physical nourishment for our daily journey towards Eternal Life with Him in heaven.
As He put so eloquently “I am the living bread that has come down from heaven. If anyone eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world” (John 6:51-52).
While we receive our Lord in this fashion in Holy Communion (under the appearance of bread and wine), mealtime prayers offer us another good opportunity to “check in” with Him in thanksgiving for His blessings in our hectic daily lives.
Our Lord Himself gave thanks before performing one of His most famous miracles, in which he fed 5000 people from just five barley loaves and 2 fish! He lamented that many of those who sought Him out soon afterwards basically just wanted more food.
He reproached them saying “Amen, amen I say to you, you seek me, not because you have seen signs, but because you have eaten of the loaves, and have been filled. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for that which endures unto life everlasting” (John 6:26-27). Clearly, the King of Kings was not Burger King!
As Jesus suggests here, we should always try to cultivate and feed our divine hunger by studying His teachings in scripture and seeking out His will for us as we follow His Commandments.
Note that in the second of these prayers above how love enters the picture along with gratitude. Praying for the departed, those who have passed away before us, reminds us that we are all in this divine journey together, one way or another. We must strive to show God’s love in our prayers for others and in how we treat them as well.
You can help in this regard by fasting, health permitting, (or partaking of less food perhaps) when you can, giving the money you’ve saved on the extra food to a charity or a food bank or soup kitchen, for those who can barely get by each day. This Lenten activity is good all year round!
Hopefully you can also share Christ’s love and fellowship at mealtimes in the company of family or friends in conversation. Take the time around a dinner table after saying Grace to let our Lord show you what really matters, His love for us as reflected in the love we show each other.