Article by Michael Goforth II:
Have you ever thought about why we “say grace” before meals?
I know it was the example of Jesus and the apostle Paul (Matt. 15:36, Acts 27:35), but what is the purpose behind it?
You could argue that there are several, but I think the main purpose is one of recognition and thanksgiving. We recognize that, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17) and we thank our Heavenly Father for providing us with the food. (1 Timothy 4:4-5)
When we pray before a meal, we are pausing to turn our hearts and minds godward. We are recognizing our Creator as the great Giver of all good things. And we are thanking Him for sustaining us with His provision.
This is a great practice, and if you don’t already do this, I would highly recommend it. But if it’s true that every good and perfect gift is from above, wouldn’t it make sense if we were to “say grace” before more than just meals?
I love how G.K. Chesterton famously says it, “You say grace before meals. All right. But I say grace before the concert and the opera, and grace before the play and pantomime, and grace before I open a book, and grace before sketching, painting, swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing and grace before I dip the pen in the ink.”
Believe it or not, the first time I started thinking like this was in the first grade. Recess had just finished and snack time was upon us. My teacher started passing out the snacks and as you can probably imagine, those first graders had their mouths full before the majority of us even got our share.
There I was, somewhere in the middle of the pack, and visibly upset by the carnage of Little Debbie snacks that surrounded me. I quickly brought my concerns to the teacher and explained that we hadn’t prayed and thanked the Lord for the food yet. She calmed me down and explained that since it wasn’t a “full meal,” God would understand. I remember walking away somewhat puzzled by that. If we thanked God for a hot dog, why wouldn’t we thank Him for a brownie? Not bad logic for a kid who can barely tie his own shoes.
Now, I don’t tell you that story to brag about my childhood spirituality, or to rebuke my teacher. She actually did a good job calming me down, especially when you consider the fact that we were surrounded by a herd of hungry first graders. And to address my childhood spirituality, in that same grade I got busted for taking toy dinosaurs from the toy bin and bringing them home. I just wanted to borrow them. . . forever. . . Things weren’t very pretty when my dad found out.
The real purpose of the story is to get you to think. If we thank God for a hot dog, why wouldn’t we thank Him for a brownie? Or a great book? Or a fun game? Or a cozy blanket? Or a night out with some friends?
We say grace before meals, but what if we said grace before movies? What if we said grace before phone calls? What if we said grace while watching a sunset? What if we said grace before writing a note?
What if we practiced God’s presence in the little things of life? What if we had an attitude of prayer and thanksgiving all throughout the day? What if we allowed every good gift to point us to the Giver?
After all, we are commanded to “pray without ceasing,” and in the very next verse we read, “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17-18)
In my own life, I have found this to be a very fruitful way to practice God’s presence. I thank God for hot meals, and I thank Him for cold drinks. I thank Him for snowy mornings, and I thank Him for sunny evenings. I thank Him for a nice place to live, and I thank Him for a great church to pastor.
If you’re a good Baptist, you’ve been wondering this entire time when I’m going to address such a pagan title for a blog post. (I’m joking. . .kind of. . .) But here it is.
Sometimes when my wife and I are cooking a meal together, a dance party will break out in the kitchen. Some are crazy and filled with laughter, others are slow and sentimental. During the last one, I remember holding her in my arms and being overwhelmed by God’s goodness in my life. With her head against my chest, I fought back some tears, glanced up at my Heavenly Father and just said, “thank you.” Shannon is an amazing gift, and she points me to the glorious Giver.
So don’t just say grace before your meals. Say grace before your morning coffee, say grace before you brush your teeth at night, and say grace for everything in between.
Let’s give thanks, “always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;” (Ephesians 5:20)
And remember, “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.” (James 1:17)