Recently at an Alpha meeting I was asked about the origin of saying grace before meals.
The short answer is this practice of saying grace or thanking God for the food before meal follows after the example of Jesus.
The Gospel of Matthew records for us two accounts of Jesus feeding the five thousand and the four thousand with only a small amount of food. In both accounts, Jesus gave thanks to God before the meal.
“And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people” (Matthew 14:19).
“Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people” (Matthew 15:36).
We read also in Luke 24:13-35 the two disciples on the road to Emmaus invited the resurrected Christ to stay and eat with them. And as before, the customary practice of Jesus was to give thanks before a meal.
“When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them” (Luke 24:30).
The apostle Paul too has this practice of giving thanks before a meal. In Acts 27 he was on board a ship with 276 people when they encountered a violent storm. After fourteen days of going without food, Paul encouraged the sailors and passengers to eat something. Even in the midst of that dangerous and terrifying situation, Paul maintained his customary practice of giving thanks to God before meal.
“After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat” (Acts 27:35).
Giving thanks to God before meals is a habit to remind us God is the source of every blessing.
“For from him and through him and for him are all things” (Romans 11:36).
“Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17).
Saying grace before meals acknowledges God is the Provider. He gives us our daily bread. The food we eat comes from Him, not the grocery store or our paycheck.
When we give thanks before a meal, we pause, look up with gratitude for the goodness of God who provided the meal, mindful of those who have not much to eat and those who could not enjoy eating because of their dental or health problems.
Saying grace cultivates in us a spirit of gratitude that thank God for His providential grace.
That should not be done in dry legalistic fashion. And certainly not as a sign of piety before people who may be watching us.
Whether you thank God quietly or aloud let it be a true expression of your thanks to God.
Let’s not be like an ungrateful child who takes the Father’s gifts for granted.
Make gratitude a regular part of your life.
You do that when you bow down before you chow down.