Wednesday, January 09, 2019

Saying Grace

When I was a kid, we had an everyday dinner prayer and a company dinner prayer.  The everyday one went:
    Thank you, God, for food and fun.
    Thank you, God, rain and sun.
    Thank you, God, for parents dear.
    Thank you, God, for being here.

I don't remember the company one.  The prayer above is so deeply implanted in me from repetition that it will never leave me.  I think my mom found it in a books of prayers for children.

When I was a child, it became a race to get through the prayer so that we could get to dinner.  My brother and I would say it so fast that eventually we left out the 'parents dear' part (sorry, mom and dad.)  But even if we'd said it the words had all already lost all their meaning.

I didn't want that to happen in our own family practice at meal time so for most of our life as a family we've held hands and spoken aloud things for which we are grateful.  Or when people fail to talk, spend a moment in silence.  But we've come to the speed-through-to-get-to-dinner point.  Holding hands becomes squeezing, becomes jostling.  The little one just says "Amen" immediately and insistently because he knows that means he can eat.  Prayer is no longer prayer, it's a distraction.

So it's time to try something new.  I decided maybe it's time we do have something to recite or read.  But I still don't want to fall into the zoom through to be done trap.  So I'm making some prayer cards.  Kids can choose which one they want or we can draw at random.  I found several good ones in Wendy Claire Barker's excellent and practical book Faith at Home: A Handbook for Cautiously Christian ParentsLike this one sung to the tune of "Frere Jacques":
    God our Father, God our Mother,
    we thank you, we thank you,
    for this food before us, for this food before us.
    Amen. Amen.
She also suggests writing down spoken gratitude to keep a record, a family gratitude journal.  I wonder if my children might pay better attention if they know it's being recorded for posterity.

And I cruised our best friend the internet for other suggestions.  Like the classic:
    Bless us, O Lord, and these gifts
    which we are about to receive from your goodness.
    In Jesus name, Amen.

Based on my searches, Amazon suggested this mealtime prayer cube to me, which I have to admit is pretty tempting.  But also based on my searches I realized, "Oh, I actually know quite a lot of mealtime prayers."  Haven't I been going to church, Christian camps and schools and worked in ecumenical or Mennonite settings basically my whole life?

Here's some of what comes up when I Google my own brain:
    Be present at our table Lord.
    Be here and everywhere adored.
    Your mercies bless and grant that we
    May feast in paradise with thee.

My classmates and sang that gem every lunchtime in my secular public Canadian elementary school.  I'm sure that doesn't happen any more.

And I know this one from somewhere:
    Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.
    Let this food to us be blessed.  Amen

Now that I think about it, that might have been the company prayer.

And this one that I've both sung and spoken:
    God is great and God is good,
    and we thank God for our food.
    By God's hands we all are fed.
    Give us Lord our daily bread.

Or how about the Bible:
The Lord's prayer in one of it's many versions or straight from Matthew 6:9-13 or Luke 11:2-4?  Or a Psalm like the short and sweet 117:
    Praise God all you nations;
    extol God, all you mighty ones.
    For God's love toward us is great,
    God's faithfulness, eternal.

And I might add a 'Bless us and our meal' at the end for good measure.  There are lots of Psalms of Thanksgiving though.  And they're easy to find if you have a bible with headings.

There's always the doxology, which can be spoken or sung.  Megan even introduced us to new words recently in worship:
    Praise God the Source of life and birth;
    praise God the Word, who came to earth;
    praise God the Spirit, holy flame;
    all glory, honor to God’s name! Amen.

And there you have it.  In the process of writing about it, I've discovered I have a little set of prayers I can introduce.  And I'll probably include the one from my childhood as well.  A blessing on all of you and your families as you eat together and create your own family traditions.

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