The Bible makes it clear that saying grace is an incredibly important act before eating a meal. Jesus himself gave thanks to the Father before feeding multitudes of people; Paul, too, gave thanks before having a meal. And 2,000 years later, Christians continue the tradition of uttering a grace prayer before each meal — a sign of gratitude, respect and love for the Creator.
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Holidays are a great time to start the practice of saying grace with your family before a meal. We've provided some steps just for you on how to say grace. Or you can get some fresh ideas for thanking God with these 10 mealtime prayers. We also included some great ways to build a nightly grace practice with simple steps to keep your mealtime prayers fresh and interesting.
Building a Mealtime Prayer Tradition
Step 1: Be Intentional About Mealtime Prayer
It’s important to be intentional about mealtime prayer. Consider coming up with a daily plan for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Either choose a designated person to say prayers before each meal or rotate around the table and ask a different family member. Another option is to ask everyone to participate in a rotating prayer — one that expresses gratitude for the food as well as for something that may have happened during their day. The key to mealtime prayer is being intentional and genuine in thanking the Lord.
Step 2: Be Creative With Mealtime Prayer
Don’t be afraid to get creative with your mealtime prayers. Sometimes, we go through the motions of prayer, without really focusing on its purpose or putting thought behind our words. Try not to fall into habits of saying the same thing each night before you eat; instead, take the time to be thoughtful in what you say and encourage family members to be creative and original in how they frame their prayers. We have included some potential prayer options below in order to keep switching up your mealtime prayer.
Step 3: Be Consistent With Mealtime Prayer
The third key to a successful mealtime prayer tradition is being consistent. Whether it’s breakfast, lunch or dinner, be sure to sit down and pray together. Try not to skip prayers at mealtime - even if you all are ready to dig into the meal! Remember that patience is a virtue, and prayer fuels the soul just like our food fuels our bodies.
If you make it a consistent tradition, you and your family members will integrate it into the normal, everyday routine. But more importantly, you’ll keep gratitude at the forefront of your minds.
Mealtime Prayers For You & Your Family
If you're struggling to come up with some mealtime prayers for you and your family, here are some you can use before every meal.
A Simple Grace Prayer of Gratitude
“Dear Lord, thank you for this food we are about to eat. We are grateful for Your provision. We ask that You would bless this food and continue to guide our family along Your path. In the name of Your son Jesus, amen.”
Saying grace can be a simple act that gives credit to God for His provision, guidance and everlasting love. Taking a moment to engage in mealtime prayers is an important way to keep your family centered on what truly matters. Even a simple prayer of grace before a meal holds the power to teach your children powerful lessons about gratitude to the Almighty.
Praying for the Poor While Saying Grace
“Lord, we are so grateful for the food that You have set before us. We know not everyone has what we do and we thank You for everything You have given to us. We also want to take this time to pray for the poor and hungry who lack resources. Please be with them and sustain them. In the name of Jesus we pray, amen.”
Taking the time during grace to acknowledge the needs of the poor is a great way to show children that saying grace is an opportunity to also pray for those in need. This not only teaches compassion, but it shows that mealtime prayers can be a time to look beyond ourselves. Prayers of grace before a meal is a time to show that while we're grateful to God that He provides for us, we know that not everyone is as lucky. Consider some form of this prayer while saying grace in your home.
Reflecting on Psalm 136 While Saying Grace
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever. … He gives food to every creature. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.” – Psalm 136:1-3;25-26 (NIV)
If you’re looking for tips on saying grace, Psalms 113-118, which is collectively known as the “Hallel,” offers some guidance. It is a segment of Scripture that’s typically recited by Jews during important occasions. But it seems Psalm 136, in particular, holds a special place when it comes to meal recitation.
A portion of the chapter, which is used for mealtime, is known as “The Great Hillel.” The website IntoxicatedOnLife.com has more about how this can be a useful grace prayer:
"Psalm 136 celebrates God as Creator and Rescuer. It speaks of God’s supreme lordship over the universe, His creative power, and His mighty acts during Israel’s exodus and wilderness wanderings.
Psalm 136 is also a call-and-answer psalm (antiphonal). It was written to be recited by two groups of people. The first group recites a line and the second responds with “for His steadfast love endures forever.” This can make for a very engaging mealtime blessing: parents can recite the first line, and children can respond."
Families can get creative when using these Scriptures as mealtime prayers. For example, you can choose someone to say “His love endures forever” after each proclamation, or have one person read the first line, then have the rest of the family respond with "His love endures forever." Call and response such as this is a great way to get creative when saying grace before mealtime as a family.
Use Mealtime Prayers to Ask for a Family Blessing
“Dear Lord, we thank You for Your love and for this meal. Please bless our conversation as we enjoy food and one another’s company. Please guide our words and lead us toward fruitful discussion. We thank You and love You. In the name of Your son Jesus we pray, amen.”
This mealtime grace prayer offers you and your family the chance to ask God to bless your conversations — and your lives. In the majority of most households, the family dinner is one of the only times many parents and children have during the day to sit down and talk. While saying grace, pray that God would use these conversations as a special time of fellowship, encouragement and growth in your own family.
Using Psalm 104:27-38;31 as a Grace Prayer
“All creatures look to you to give them their food at the proper time. When you give it to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are satisfied with good things. … May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works.” – Psalm 104:27-28;31 (NIV)
Aother great Scripture to reflect on during mealtime prayers is Psalm 104, verse 27-28 and verse 31. If you’re looking for a way to teach kids how to say grace, this can be a helpful Scripture series for use at the dinner table. These verses acknowledge that it is God who gives food to all creatures; it also gives thanks to the Almighty for being a loving Creator.
Saying Grace While at a Restaurant
“Dear Lord, thank You for giving us the opportunity to eat out tonight. We know not everyone gets the chance to go to restaurants, and we thank You for the blessing to be able to do so. Please help this food to nourish us, as we are grateful for Your provision. In the name of Your son Jesus we pray, amen.”
Saying mealtime prayers at restaurants can be an important opportunity not only to be consistent in thanking God for food, but to also recognize that not everyone has the ability or resources to eat out.
We encourage you to not shy away from saying grace and praying as a family while out in public. It is still important to set aside the time to thank the Lord and even an opportunity to bear witness and share the faith with others. Saying grace while at a restaurant or outside of the home offers consistency to your children and shows that there’s never a time when prayer isn’t important and relevant.
Invoke 1 Thessalonians 5:18 While Saying Grace
“1 Thessalonians 5:18 tells us, ‘give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.’ So, Lord, we pause to thank You for this meal and for all the blessings You give to us. We are so thankful for our lives and the love You’ve given our family. Thank You. In the name of Your son Jesus we pray, amen.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18 is a wonderful verse to consider when saying grace. It reminds us that, no matter what is going on, it’s essential to give thanks to God for all He has provided. Integrating this verse into mealtime prayers is a natural fit — and is a solid way to encourage the rest of the family to think deeper about giving thanks in various areas of life.
Use a Familiar Grace Prayer for Any Meal
“Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ our Lord.”
Catholics tend to use a familiar prayer when saying grace and engaging in mealtime prayers. This prayer is typically followed by the sign of the cross.
A grace prayer similar to this could be used when thanking God before a meal. Seeing food as a “gift” is helpful in building gratitude among children and adults, alike. This is a simple mealtime prayer that is said nightly in homes across America. You can also add on to this grace prayer by thanking and blessing the hands who prepared the food, remembering the love and labor that went into cooking your meal.
Focus on Love When Saying Grace Prayer
“Lord, thank You for the food before us, the family and friends beside us and the love between us. In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.”
As previously mentioned, when considering how to say grace, it’s possible to keep things simple. If you're looking for more options as prayers for grace before a meal, Beliefnet.com has a number of easy prayers of grace and gratitude that can be said.
Considering the familial connection to mealtime, it’s potentially prudent to offer a grace prayer that thanks God not only for the food, but also for the friends and family members who might be sitting beside you. Culturally, sharing meals with family and friends has always been used as a time for socializing and spending quality time together in addition to providing fuel for your body through food. From thanking God for family and friends to praising Him for love, mealtime prayers can get us all thinking a bit deeper about the blessings in our lives.
Saying Grace in a Circle of Gratitude
Another great way to offer mealtime prayers is to have each family member briefly share one thing he or she is grateful for — or perhaps giving thanks for the best moment of the day for each person. Another option of saying grace during the holiday season is to have each person come prepared to share a Bible verse about gratitude. Then, after each family member has shared, a quick grace prayer is offered for the food.
As the family eats, a discussion can then be had about the ups and downs of the day, with a focus on the blessings that God has bestowed upon each person.
That concludes our list of how to get creative with your mealtime prayers of grace as a family and some examples you can use this holiday season when gathering with your loved ones. However you choose to give thanks for the provisions God has provided you and your family, may the food fuel you for the journey God has in store for you.