Confession: I don’t like to pray before meals when I’m alone.
It’s not that I don’t like to pray. It’s that before-meal prayer has been such a habitual thing in my life that it’s kind of lost its meaning. Most of the time growing up, I wasn’t listening to the prayer at the supper table as much as I was thinking about the food I was about to devour or squeezing my brother’s hand harder than he could squeeze mine. And I never felt guilty about that. I was sure that after hundreds, even thousands of times, God knew we were thankful for our food and would bless it and us, regardless.
I did go through a phase where I made it a point to always pray before I ate, wherever I was, just in case anyone was watching. And we know what the Bible says about that.
But in the past few years, I’ve leaned back to the apathetic stance toward before-meal prayers. If I don’t really mean it, why pray it? I know that’s not the right attitude and that I should be grateful for what food I have when so many in the world have so little, but it’s the shameful truth.
However, I think I’ve found another poignant reason to bow my head at the table and actually mean what I pray again.
I found it while I was staring down at my little plastic cup of grape juice. Or maybe just before that, while I was staring down at the stale, square little cracker in my hand.
It was like any other Lord’s Supper observance at my church. I was praying, asking God for forgiveness and thanking him for his sacrifice and trying my darnedest not to spill the juice (it’s a stressful few minutes for someone who once spilled it all over the pew and her dress, even 15 years later). Then, the preacher said something simple that completely shifted my thoughts:
“Let us remember your body broken for us every time we take a bite to eat. Let us remember your blood spilled for us every time we take a drink” (or something like that).
Whoa. I’d never heard a preacher say it that way before. The more I thought about it, the more I realized how right it was.
The Last Supper wasn’t just a model for church communion; it was a model for every meal any of us would ever eat. I haven’t missed a lot of meals (believe me), but I have missed a lot of opportunities to truly consider what Jesus did for me. I’ve missed countless chances to dwell on the significance of the nourishment and satisfaction that food and drink bring to me as a symbol of the spiritual nourishment and satisfaction Jesus’ sacrifice brought to me.
When we thank God and ask him to bless our food, we can be thanking him for so much more. No, it’s not like we can’t thank him and revel in the majesty of his great love for us any ol’ time we want. But it’s so awesome that God gave us something so very physical that we do so often to remind us of who he is and what he’s done for us.
I’m not saying there’s nothing special about formal, corporate communion. There certainly is, and I believe the Bible calls for it to be observed on a regular basis. And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be grateful just for the food on our table. It certainly is a blessing.
What I am saying is that we don’t have to be sitting in church to enjoy the benefits of communion. We can remember, with every sip and every bite: Jesus bled, was broken, and died to save us. He knew what was coming even when he ate that last meal with the disciples, yet he did not turn back. He loved us enough to face the blood, the breaking, and the death. And as our food and drink bring life to our bodies that would die without them, Jesus’ death also brought life– in his resurrection and in our redemption.
Maybe I’m just hungry. Or I’ve been thinking about food a lot more since I began counting calories a few months ago. But I think this is worth thinking about, and even worth praying about.
I think Paul says it best:
So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
–1 Corinthians 10:31
COMMENT: How has God changed your apathy for something routine into sincerity? How do you keep your mind on God and not on your plate when you sit down to pray for your meal?