Most Christians pray a short prayer, giving thanks to God for the food, before they eat their evening meal.
From what I have seen, most of them don’t pray before lunch. Even less seem to pray before breakfast.
I’ve never seen a Christian pray before eating gum, or a candy bar.
Why do we do this? And where is the line that decides whether we pray or not pray?
Amazingly I have found a strong reaction to even asking this question. It is a ritual for us, and we don’t like it to be challenged.
But let’s ask it anyway. That’s healthy.
The only “giving thanks” (before a meal) recorded in the Bible is when Jesus (and Paul) were handing out bread.
When Jesus fed the 5000, Matthew and Mark say Jesus blessed the bread, and gave thanks for the fish. When he fed the 4000 he gave thanks for the bread and blessed the fish. Luke and John just say Jesus gave thanks both times.
Btw: Jesus didn’t bow his head to pray, he looked up to Heaven. Why do we always close our eyes and bow our heads when we pray? What’s with that?
And when Jesus was instituting communion at the last supper, he blessed the bread (during the meal) broke it, and handed it out saying, “this is my body”. And then he gave thanks for the wine (or more literally the cup) and passed that around too.
Oh, and another btw: this was no ordinary bread. It was Passover bread. Made without yeast (representing his body made without sin). I wonder if when Jesus said, “as often as you eat this bread” he actually did mean “as often as you eat this Passover bread”… also implying what his followers should keep Passover as a remembrance of his sacrifice?
And Paul gave thanks to God for the bread that he handed out to his fellow sailors just before they were shipwrecked on Malta (Acts 27).
But all of these are very special occasions. And it would be dangerous to use these to create a rule for daily life.
There are of course many occasions listed in the Bible where people ate food. None of the others (except for the Passover meal) mention the giving of thanks. (that doesn’t mean that they didn’t pray first, but it’s not mentioned).
In Romans 14 Paul says it’s OK for Christians to eat anything because they are thankful to God for it.
But we can be thankful without a specific ritual prayer before we eat it right? Thankful is an attitude, which we can have with or without a prayer.
And if we can’t be thankful without a specific prayer, then that would apply to gum and candies as well as our evening meal. At least we should be consistent.
In fact, there are many things we should be thankful for. Paul tells us to be thankful for everything, and to give thanks in all circumstances.
Perhaps we should we stop and pray more often, and not just when we are about to eat?
So, be thankful because every mouthful you eat, every step you walk, every breath you take, every beat of your heart, is given to you by God.
It’s up to you what you do before you eat. But if you cannot eat without praying because it’s a ritual that has mastered you, then perhaps you have a problem.
At least you should do some research and have a think about it. Pray about it, perhaps you’ll be surprised by the answer.
But whether you pray or not. Be thankful.