some other family enjoying mealtime prayer
Do you pray before meals with your family?
This Christian spiritual practice is one I grew up with. I was praying at meals since I was 3, and I remember some of those first prayers. Do you remember getting to pray for the meals as a child? It felt like an honor to be asked, as I recall.
Here’s where it gets weird.
My two children (ages, almost 11 and 8 years old, respectively) seem to loath mealtime prayers, under any circumstances.
Unlike many children from praying homes, mine rebuff any offers to say the prayer at mealtime, even when they are sweetened with awesome bribes! They usually complain about mealtime prayer, despite our conversations about having our particular family tradition and its importance in our view of the world. Most often, the kids see mealtime prayers as a unpleasant obstacle preventing their nourishment. And, it seems to be worsening as time goes by.
That’s right a 30 second prayer time before meals is worse than other forms of child torture…like going to bed at 8:00, or hanging up one’s coat, or emptying the silverware from the dishwasher. I don’t get it either.
As a person who’s spent hundreds of hours researching and learning how to help people grow spiritually, this is a bit of a black eye…oh, and a punch in the gut. It’s not just a bit embarrassing to realize, but it makes me think that perhaps my children’s basic spiritual formation is compromised if these times of prayer are not meaningful and helpful when we do them. I think we could all be the worse for our failure here.
So, I’ve been speaking with my husband about how we can change things up, and enliven family prayer time to make God, and thanking God for our food more participatory, vivified, and worthwhile for all of us. I want children with grateful hearts.
I thought of some ideas, and I hope you will contribute to the mix too. I could use your ideas and advice.
Idea 1. Lighting a candle:
Kids love fire. Right? I’d like to try to light a voitive candle for each of us and read John 8:12
Then Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. The one who follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
We can then respond. “Thank you Jesus for your light in our hearts. Thank you for our meal. Amen.”
Idea 2. Maybe adding a kind of prop, visual aid, or short object lesson with our practice would make it not just a more interesting time, but will carry on in their thoughts. Then, at night when putting them to bed, we could bring it up again, for a little meditating or conversation for an evening prayer.
Idea 2. Maybe using a mixing of responsive prayers during the week could awaken us to a richer time of thanks before meals.
(lead voice) The eyes of all wait upon you, O God,
(others) And you give them their food in due season.
You open wide your hand
and fill all things living with plenteousness.
Bless, O Lord, these gifts to our use and us in your service;
relieve the needs of those in want and give us thankful hearts;
for Christ’s sake. Amen.
(lead voice) Bless us, O Lord, who bless your holy name
and by this food, feed us for your holy service.
(others) Thank you, Father and Lord. Amen.
This one could be said after meal time, to add some thankfulness “bookends” to the time together.
After meal prayer:
(lead voice) All your works praise you, O God,
(others) And your faithful servants bless you.
They make known the glory of your kingdom
And speak of your power.
For these and all God’s gifts and graces,
let us bless the Lord.
Thanks be to God. Amen.
1. We could also go around the table and thank God for something. (My kids balk at this usually.)
2. We could stand and hold hands, or change our posture during prayer, from the norm (which for us is holding hands while seated).
3. When could listen to a singing of a psalm, or worship song before the meal.
HELP! What else can be done to make mealtime prayer better?