Most of us did not learn to pray in church. Nor were we taught at school . . . nor even beside our bed at night. If the truth were known, we've done more praying around the kitchen table than anywhere else on earth. From our earliest years we've been programmed: If you don't pray, you don't eat. It started with Pablum and it continues through porterhouse. A meal is incomplete without it.
For some strange reason, at one point as I was growing up, prayer before the meal became the "comedy hour." In spite of parental frowns, glares, and threats, we simply could not keep from laughing. I remember one time my sister and I giggled so long and so loud that Mother finally joined in. My older brother was praying (he usually remembered every missionary from Alaska to Zurich) and never let up. He finished by praying for the three of us!
As we grew older, however, we began to realize how good it is to cultivate this healthy habit. In fact, "asking the blessing" is a sweet, needed, refreshing pause during any hectic day. But since it occurs so often, an easy trap to fall into is sameness—meaningless, repetitious clichés that might even be boring to God! (Remember, our Lord Jesus warned against the kind of empty verbosity that characterized the Pharisees.)
I haven't got all the answers, but you might start with these suggestions.
Think before you pray. What's on the table? Call the food and drink by name. What kind of day are you facing . . . or have you faced? Pray with those things in mind. Be specific.
Involve others in prayer. Try sentence prayers involving everyone at the table. Or, ask for their requests.
Sing your blessing. The doxology, a familiar hymn, or a chorus of worship offers a nice change of pace. Holding hands adds a lot.
Keep it brief, please. There's nothing like watching a thick film form over the gravy while you plow through all five stanzas of "And Can It Be?"
Occasionally pray after the meal. An attitude of worship is sometimes easier to maintain when stomachs are full.
In case you wonder if your "grace time" is losing its punch, here's a way to find out. When the meal is over, ask if anyone remembers what was prayed for. If they do, great. If they don't, sit back down and discuss why. You've got a lot more to be concerned about than a stack of dishes.
Prayer is truly the pause that refreshes.
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