Thanks to the Custer County Chief, which publishes an article from one of the pastors in the ministerial association each week. Here’s my contribution for the November 28, 2019 issue.
I knew, when I became a pastor, that some things in my life would change, but who prays at family meals wasn’t one of them. On one side of my family, we still sing the old “Doxology”:
“Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise him, all creatures here below; praise him above, ye heavenly host; praise father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Amen” (United Methodist Hymnal, 95).
On the other side, praying had always been my grandpa’s domain:
“Father, make us thankful for that which we are about to receive. In Jesus’s name, we do ask. Amen.”
But now, as we gather in a circle of held hands, my grandpa gives me the nod.
In case this holy task falls to you today, or soon, at your next meal, here are a couple old standbys.
“Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let this food to us, be blessed.”
“Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we receive from your bounty through Christ our Lord.”
If yours is a family who does rote, memorized, prayers, all of the above might serve you well. If something longer or specific is needed, you can add in thanks for those who cooked, those who labored in fields, highways, factories, and grocery aisles that we might eat, as well as those who are present and/or absent from our tables.
Really, there’s no way to mess up this prayer of thanks, so long as you lead from a thankful heart. You might even get away with the old silent prayer:
“Let us pray with thanksgiving… … … Amen.”
But, here’s the thing. Giving thanks opens us to see and experience the blessing of God, not just respond to God. As the psalmist says,
“He who sacrifices thank offerings honors me, and he prepares the way so that I may show him the salvation of God” (Ps 50:23, NIV 1984).
Giving thanks prepares us to see, experience, and receive salvation – that is, the wholeness, healing, and fullness of life with God.
So, as we prepare to feast today, may our table prayers, as well as our feasting, fellowship, and fun, be means through which we experience God’s life more fully today.