Does the Practice of Saying Grace Really Matter?

saying grace

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It’s lunchtime at the orphanage, and about 50 girls clamor to the windowless, concrete structure and take their seat. There is nothing more sobering than to watch a child in a developing country saying grace.

I fixed my eyes on a frail, quiet girl who whispers a humble prayer of thanksgiving for the small rations of food on her plate. By saying grace, this young girl demonstrates that she does not take food for granted. She is truly grateful.

Before one bite touched her lips, with reverence, she clasped her chapped hands together and pointed her dirty fingers heavenward. After every mouthful, she swatted away huge black flies that waited to desecrate and steal her food.

This girl ate slowly savoring every morsel. Unless she is being rewarded for exceptional behavior, there would not be a second helping.

In her politically corrupt and economically ravished corner of the world, food choice is the privilege of thieves.

Amidst extreme poverty, this tiny little girl communed with God to offer him a special benediction of thanksgiving.

In our land of plenty, where supermarket shelves are rarely empty, it’s easy to take our sustenance for granted.

I think about the quote from G.K. Chesterton “When it comes to life, the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude.”

When did saying grace become an after-thought?

Maybe you are like me, you say grace before a meal, but the words seem more stilted than natural. When did saying grace become an afterthought for me? I can’t pinpoint the time or place, but I have a suspicion about how it evolved.

Busy eating rarely allows time for even brief contemplation. Fast food erodes any connection or thought about the meal just handed to you in the drive-thru. Once the meal lands in the car, it’s time to inspect the bag to make sure the order is right.

No time to conjure up a blessing.

Food abundance is another likely villain that moves my attention away from gratitude.

I’ve recently realized that I need to reform my practice of saying grace. How about you?

saying grace

When you can’t find the right words without sounding formulaic, try this:

1. Look inward – you could express gratitude for the gift of your body its amazingly intricate design. Also, the food that nourishes and nurtures your body is worthy of thankfulness.

2. Look outward – Speak words of thanks for the farmers who grew the food that made it to your table. Bless the hands of those who lovingly and willingly prepared your food. Pray for those who don’t have enough food.

In your daily saying of grace, pray for opportunities to use your kitchen table to build or strengthen friendships.

There is something magical that happens when you lite a few candles, spread a tablecloth, and arrange a few random stems of flowers plucked from the yard. You create community when you cook a meal and share the whole scene with a friend or a stranger.

The menu does not require a degree in culinary arts. Make it simple but allow it to nourish those who grace your table.

Theologist Norman Wirzba reminds us that “With the help of each other, we can practice the skills of conversation, reflection, and gratitude that contribute to a more completely human life.”

saying grace

Plants, animals, and Creation merit thanks (Psalm 104:14-18).

Look upward- Our advanced industrial world reduces food to a cheap, fast, processed product which we gulp down usually on the go. We forget to pause and reflect that food is a precious gift, a sign of God’s love and sustaining provision.

Dr. Alan Noble, the author of the book Disruptive Witness, points out that “The more divorced we are from the cultivation of crops and animals, and the more mechanical and manufactured our food appears to us, the less we see it as a gift.”

When you say grace, you acknowledge, commune, and honor God.

The desire to say grace is a heart-shift which then leads to changes in your daily living.

If you find it challenging to remember to say grace, science shows that the mind and brain routinely change each other. God designed our beautiful brain to change in ways for the better.

If the practice of saying grace is new or rusty for you, remember that grace is “something that must be worked out and practiced in the diverse dimensions of daily life” 

Take deliberate, soulful steps toward cultivating a practice of saying heartfelt grace.

                               

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4 Comments

  1. Heather Hart on October 2, 2019 at 10:24 am
    Beautifully written and oh so true. So often saying grace isn't a conversation with our Savior, but something I rush through to check off my list.
    • Denise Sultenfuss on October 2, 2019 at 3:21 pm
      Heather, I am right there with you. I sit down to eat and often think of my stomach before I think of the One who provided the food on my plate. There is grace, though, for us to move forward in our practice of gratitude.
  2. Vangelina on October 2, 2019 at 2:36 pm
    I needed this reminder and tips on saying grace. This post truly reached my heart. Thank you for sharing.
    • Denise Sultenfuss on October 2, 2019 at 3:22 pm
      Vangelina (what a beautiful name), thanks for stopping by today and blessing me with your comment. I am glad that my words provided a soulful read. Don't be a stranger, stop by again.

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