Grace as a Prayer
A grace is a short prayer or thankful phrase said before or after eating. The term most commonly refers to Christian traditions. Some traditions hold that grace and thanksgiving imparts a blessing which sanctifies the meal. In English, reciting such a prayer is sometimes referred to as “saying grace”. The term comes from the Ecclesiastical Latin phrase gratiarum actio, “act of thanks.” In Christian theology, the act of saying grace is derived from the Bible, in which Jesus and Saint Paul pray before meals (cf. Luke 24:30, Acts 27:35). The practice reflects the belief that humans should thank God who is the origin of everything.
Typical Christian grace prayers
- Ecumenical – “We give You thanks for food and drink and all that You provide: flowers, mountains, stars above, family by our side. Grant that we might hear Your voice and always be our Guide; From now until the end of time may we, in You, abide. Amen”
- Catholic (before eating) – “Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.” (Preceded and followed by the Sign of the Cross.)
- Catholic (after eating) – “We give Thee thanks, Almighty God, for all thy benefits, Who lives and reigns for ever and ever. Amen.” (Preceded and followed by the Sign of the Cross.)
- Eastern Orthodox (before eating) – “O Christ God, bless the food and drink of Thy servants, for holy art Thou, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen.” (The one saying the prayer may make the Sign of the Cross over the food with his right hand).
- Eastern Orthodox (after eating) – After the meal, all stand and sing: We thank Thee, O Christ our God, that Thou hast satisfied us with Thine earthly gifts; deprive us not of Thy Heavenly Kingdom, but as Thou camest among Thy disciples, O Saviour, and gavest them peace, come unto us and save us. There are also seasonal hymns which are sung during the various Great Feasts. At Easter, it is customary to sing the Paschal troparion.
- Anglican Bless, O Father, Thy gifts to our use and us to Thy service; for Christ’s sake. Amen.
- Lutheran (The common table prayer) (before eating) Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest, and let Thy/these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.
- Lutheran (The common table prayer) (after eating) O give thanks unto/to the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy/love endureth/endures forever. Amen.
- Methodist/Wesleyan (Grace Before Meat) Be present at our table Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. These mercies bless and grant that we may feast in fellowship with Thee. Amen.
- Methodist/Wesleyan (Grace After Meat) We thank thee, Lord, for this our food, But more because of Jesus’ blood. Let manna to our souls be given, The Bread of Life, sent down from heaven. Amen.
- Scots (The Selkirk Grace). Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat, and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.
- Australian (any denomination) Come Lord Jesus, be our Guest, let this food of ours be blessed. Amen.
- Church of England, Common in British and Australian religious schools. For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful/grateful. Amen.
- Used at some YMCA summer camps Our Father, for this day, for our friends, for this food, we thank Thee. Amen.
- Protestant (Anglican, & Church of England) For what we are about to receive may the Lord make us truly Grateful/Thankful, Amen
- Presbyterian (Grace Before Meat) Gracious God, we have sinned against Thee, and are unworthy of Thy mercy; pardon our sins, and bless these mercies for our use, and help us to eat and drink to They glory, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
- Presbyterian (Grace After Meat) Blessed God, in Thee we live, move and have our being; make us thankful for They mercies; and as we live by Thy providence, help us to live to Thy praise looking and waiting for a better life with Thyself above, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
- Latin (In Nomine Patris, et Filii, et Spiritus Sancti. Amen.) Benedicite, Dominus, nos et ea quae sumus sumpturi benedicat dextera Christi. Amen.
Before eating, a blessing is said based on the category of food that is being eaten. The categories are: (i) Bread, (ii) fruits that grow on a tree, (iii) fruits/vegetables that do not grow on a tree, (iv) derivates of the five grains (except for bread, which has its own blessing), (v) derivatives of grapes and (vi) everything else.
The Jewish mealtime prayer, after eating a meal that includes bread, is known as Birkat Hamazon. If the meal does not include bread, a blessing after the meal is recited based on the category of food that was eaten.
With the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, the offering of the prescribed sacrifices ceased in Judaism. Thereafter, the Rabbis prescribed the substitution of other ritual actions to fill this void in Jewish obedience to the Torah. The ritual washing of hands and eating of salted bread is considered to be a substitute for the sacrificial offerings of the kohanim (Jewish priests).
Though there are separate blessings for fruit, vegetables, non-bread grain products, and meat, fish, and dairy products, a meal is not considered to be a meal in the formal sense unless bread is eaten. The duty of saying grace after the meal is derived from Deuteronomy 8:10: “And thou shalt eat and be satisfied and shalt bless the Lord thy God for the goodly land which he has given thee.” Verse 8 of the same chapter says: “The land of wheat and barley, of the vine, the fig and the pomegranate, the land of the oil olive and of [date] syrup.” Hence only bread made of wheat (which embraces spelt) or of barley (which for this purpose includes rye and oats) is deemed worthy of the blessing commanded in verse 10.
After the meal, a series of four (originally three) benedictions are said, or a single benediction if bread was not eaten.
- Before eating:
- When meal is ready: “Allahumma barik lana fima razaqtana waqina athaban-nar. “ (Translation: O Allah! Bless the food You have provided us and save us from the punishment of the hellfire.
- While starting to eat: bismillahi wa ‘ala baraka-tillah (“In the name of God and with God’s blessing”) or simply b-ismi-llāh-ir-raḥmān-ir-raḥīm (“in the name of God, the gracious, the merciful”).
- On forgetting to say grace :
Since each person says their grace individually, if someone forgets to say grace at the beginning, this supplication is made- “Bismillahi fee awalihi wa akhirihi.” (In the name of Allah, in the beginning and the end.)
- After eating: “Alhamdulillah il-lathi at’amana wasaqana waja’alana Muslimeen. (Praise be to Allah Who has fed us and given us drink, and made us Muslims.) or simply “Alhamdulillah.” (Praise be to Allah.)
“He is God! Thou seest us, O my God, gathered around this table, praising Thy bounty, with our gaze set upon Thy Kingdom. O Lord! Send down upon us Thy heavenly food and confer upon us Thy blessing. Thou art verily the Bestower, the Merciful, the Compassionate.”The Bahá’í Faith has these two prayers, which are meant for those who wish to thank God before they eat:
“He is God! How can we render Thee thanks, O Lord? Thy bounties are endless and our gratitude cannot equal them. How can the finite utter praise of the Infinite? Unable are we to voice our thanks for Thy favors and in utter powerlessness we turn wholly to Thy Kingdom beseeching the increase of Thy bestowals and bounties. Thou art the Giver, the Bestower, the Almighty.”
Hindus use the 24th verse of the 4th chapter of Bhagavad Gita as the traditional prayer or blessing before a meal. Once the food is blessed it becomes Prasad, or sanctified as holy
Brahmaarpanam Brahma Havir
Brahmaagnau Brahmanaa Hutam
Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam
Brahma Karma Samaadhinah
Which translates as ‘The act of offering is God (Brahma), the oblation is God, By God it is offered into the fire of God, God is That which is to be attained by him who sees God in all.’
Sometimes, the 14th verse from the 15th chapter of Bhagavad Gita is used:
Aham Vaishvaanaro Bhutva
Praanaapaana Samaa Yuktaha
Pachaamyannam Chatur Vidam
This translates as ‘Becoming the life-fire in the bodies of living beings, mingling with the upward and downward breaths, I digest the four kinds of food.’
Traditional Maharashtrian grace invokes the Lord through the shloka of Sant Ramdas namely:
vadani kaval gheta naam ghya shri-hariche l sahaj havan hote naam gheta phukache l jivan kari jivitva anna he purn-brahma l udar-bharan nohe janije yadnya-karma ll 1 ll
jani bhojani naam vache vadave l ati aadare gadya-ghoshe mhanave l harichintane anna sevit jaave l tari srihari pavijeto swabhave ll 2 ll
This translates as: Take the name of the Lord when putting a morsel into your mouth.
Other pre-meal traditions
In Korea, it is customary to say “Jal meokgesseumnida” (잘 먹겠습니다) (“I will eat well’). The saying is not religious in nature, and usually only occurs when eating with someone else.In Japan it is customary to put one’s hands together and say “Itadakimasu” (いただきます) (“I humbly receive”) before eating a meal.
In certain Boy Scout circles, especially in Missouri, the “S-F” grace (named after the S-F Scout Ranch in Knob Lick, Missouri) is often said, especially when people at the table are of mixed religions. The S-F grace gives thanks to a “great Spirit”, but is not affiliated with any one religion.
Another common Boy Scout grace is the “Philmont Grace” (named after the Philmont Scout Ranch in New Mexico) or the “Wilderness Grace”. It can be found in use wherever a troop has gone to Philmont, but is most common in the Western half of the United States. It goes: ” For food, for raiment, / For life, for opportunities, / For friendship and fellowship, / We thank thee, O Lord.”
- “grace, n.”Oxford English Dictionary. 2013. Retrieved 29 September 2014.
11. [….] A short prayer or blessing offered in thanks before or after eating.
- Noble, Kathy (2016). “To Be United Methodist: Why do we call it ‘grace?‘“. Interpreter Magazine. Retrieved 30 September 2018.
- Brother Lawrence, ed. (1996), Prayer Book (Fourth Edition – Revised), Jordanville, NY: Printshop of St. Job of Pochaev, Holy Trinity Monastery, p. 38
- The Book of Worship for Church and Home: With Orders of Worship, Services for the Administration of the Sacraments and Other Aids to Worship According to the Usages of the Methodist Church. Methodist Publishing House. 1964. p. 229. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
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- Jewish Dining Etiquette, About Dishes, retrieved 2007-09-01
- Schechter, Solomon; Dembitz, Lewis N. (1901), “Grace at Meals”, The Jewish Encyclopedia, Funk and Wagnalls, p. 61, retrieved 2007-09-01
- Waqf-e-Nau-Syllabus(PDF). Retrieved June 6, 2014.
- Butash, Adrian (1993) Bless This Food: Ancient and Contemporary Graces from Around the World p.14, Delacorte Press
- Prayer before eating International Sai Organisation
- “S-F Scout Ranch Grace”. Boyscouttrail.com. Retrieved 2012-11-03.
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