three times a day

What’s the number-one religious ritual you were taught as a child?

It is not tithing or gift-giving. It’s not wearing your Sunday best or carrying your Bible to church. And it’s not reciting the Lord’s Prayer.

Most likely, whether or not you were raised in a Christian home, you were taught to say, “Thank you, God, for our food.” Three times a day.

Family saying grace before meal

Before the first bite is taken, religious people the world over pause to say a blessing over the meal. And my guess is, they rarely consider why they do it.

Whether it’s the patriarch of the family reciting “Thee’s and Thou’s” or a young child’s innocent, “God is great, God is good,” it’s an expected part of everyday life to “say grace.” As though the food might not be edible if we don’t.

I believe there are two reasons why Christians should consider giving thanks before a meal is served.

But first, Two Possible Reasons to Abandon the Mealtime Prayer:

1. There is no mandate in Scripture. We habitually practice it as though there is such, but if you conduct a Scripture-search, you will find that there is no command or teaching calling Christians to pray over their meals. While there are passages which certainly speak to the issue, we can be confident the Bible never says, “Thou shalt not forget to pray before eating.”

2. Traditions can hinder. If you do anything simply for the sake of tradition, don’t.

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. Col 2:8

Traditions carry meaning. Is the mealtime-prayer tradition driven by a biblical purpose? Or is it simply a habit that you were taught as a child, that, if forgotten, may lead to grave illness {or so you thought}? That is the question.

Traditions ought to happen by accident when we do something biblical over and over again. Otherwise, we should rethink our traditions.

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.

You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition!

. . . thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.

Mark 7 {study verses 1-13 for context}

As for Two Possible Reasons to Uphold the Mealtime Prayer:

1. Jesus blessed the food.

Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing.
Matt 14:19

And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks, he broke them . . . Matt 15:35-36

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they drank all of it. Mark 14:23

When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them. Luke 24:30

[And, in one instance, Paul:]
And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks in the presence of all, he broke it and began to eat. Acts 27:35

What does it mean that Jesus “blessed” the food? What about the cases where Jesus (and others) ate and did not pause to give thanks (e.g. Luke 24:42-43)?

Perhaps Jesus usually blessed his food, and perhaps others often gave thanks for a meal, but, in their doing, was a standard set in place?

2. We are to give thanks for everything. Supposedly, the reason we say a mealtime prayer is because we’re thankful for the food, right?

While I want to be a thankful person, the first words out of my mouth in any given everyday conversation aren’t, “Thank you.” Our relationship with God is very strange, you might say. We thank God every time we speak to him.

. . . giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Eph 5:20

Time out. We must examine Romans 14:6.

The one who observes the day observes it in honor of the Lord. The one who eats, eats in honor of the Lord, since he gives thanks to God, while the one who abstains, abstains in honor of the Lord and gives thanks to God.

There you have it. The answer we were looking for. If you want to honor the Lord in your eating, you will give thanks to God.

But that’s not the end of it. If you want to honor the Lord in your abstaining, you will give thanks to God.

Whether or not you are sitting down to eat, give thanks to God.

I, for one, leave this conversation challenged in three ways:

1. Mealtime prayers, as a tradition, can have little to no meaning. Empty words.

2. While Scripture doesn’t command Christians to bless their food, it suggests that giving thanks to God is in order.

3. Thanksgiving should always be on our lips, at mealtime and otherwise.

You ask me? I say, skip the “blessing” and the saying of “grace,” and thank the Lord. For your food and for everything else. Always.

That’s more than three times a day.

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col 3:17

[image credit: lds.net, journeyoftheword.com]


7 thoughts on “three times a day

  1. So, if your always giving thanks, why not give God a word of thankfulness before a meal? What’s wrong with coming to understand the of truth in a tradition (as you mature in Christ) and carrying it on for others to enjoy?

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    1. Thanks for your comment! Sorry if I didn’t make myself clear, but, my conclusion was actually that we *should* thank God before a meal, as well as at all other times for everything. At least that’s what several passages distinctly say. And so the meal gives us no more cause for thanks than anything else. “Be thankful always and for everything” is the command.

      The term “blessing” is sometimes used when referring to Jesus. I’m not sure that when we give thanks, we’re offering a “blessing” as such. And I’m not sure that just because Jesus did it, means *we* ought to. There are many aspects about Jesus that are not meant to be copied. Just because Jesus overturned the tables in the temple doesn’t mean we do.

      The term “saying grace” seems to be a man-made label. So, I personally prefer the idea of “giving thanks,” as it seems that we are specifically directed to do so throughout Scripture. So, yes, give thanks before you eat, and before you do anything else! That’s my personal conclusion. But, certainly, search the Scriptures for yourself!

      As far as tradition… If a tradition is biblical, yes, continue it. The challenge for me is to make sure I know a tradition is biblical because there are many that are not. And there are many warnings against “traditions” in Scripture. So, that’s why I said, “Traditions ought to happen by accident when we do something biblical over and over again.” Those are the only traditions that seem worth having. But, yes, if there’s a tradition already in place, evaluate it, and see if it’s been created because of a Scriptural command or encouragement. If so, then, by all means, continue to do that thing because the Bible says so.

      Thanks so much for your questions. Sorry if I was a bit confusing in my post. 🙂

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  2. I always enjoy your thought-provoking posts and this one was no different.

    I never actually thought about why we pray over our food until this post. I really appreciate how you expanded upon this subject with great insights.

    I leave here edified. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Great post. It is good for us to think through these things that we do. Empty tradition is certainly a killer when it comes to our kids hearts walking true with God. One thing that I’ve done is encouraged our ‘grace’ to be a time of prayer – to talk to God about more than just the food. I know this makes food go cold – but really a few extra moments doesn’t really matter. It helps break away from the mindless rote of saying grace.

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