Thursday, November 06, 2014

How Much Prayer Should A Hamburger Get? is the title of an excellent little book of articles on prayer compiled by William J. Krutza and the title of an article in the book written by Eliot J. Carey.

I received the book years ago from friends who wrote these words inside the cover: "Clif, I know you like to read. We enjoyed this so thought we'd get you a copy, hope you enjoy it too. In Christian love, The Overturfs, P.S. Thanks for your terrific lessons!"

I'm going to quote several passages from Carey's article that express how I also feel about saying grace every time we open our mouths for food.

"Saying grace every time we open our mouths for food is a ritual that needs clarification. I know some people who consider it virtually a denial of the faith if they fail to bow their heads and mumble a few words before eating, whether in private, in public, or in the home of a friend."

"Ritualism in saying grace confronts us with all kinds of problems. Obviously we do not pray over all forms of sustenance, else we have sinned at the water cooler and the kitchen tap for years. Nothing is more essential to the body than water---unless it be air, and you can see the problem that raises---but I know of no one, however devout he may be, who prays at the drinking fountain in the park. We also have confession to make over a sizable backlog of Lifesavers, breath mints, salted peanuts, and licorice allsorts, all of which contain frightening amounts of nourishment."

"So we are faced with the problem of classification. Does food rate grace because of its quantity? Or its price? Or the time of day when it is eaten? If one eats a doughnut with coffee at 10:00 A.M. without grace, is one obliged to pray over a sandwich and coffee at noon? If the sandwich is classified as lunch, it requires prayer, because surely one must give thanks for one's meal."

I find the Bible is strangely silent on the topic of saying grace. There is no instruction that I know of for saying grace. I consider the Lord's Supper and Christ's prayer before feeding the multitudes highly special occasions. I do believe the Bible teaches us to always be in the spirit of prayer and I am. I am gratefull for many things and tell God so. Food is one of those things and I thank God for it often---but not just when I am eating. I believe that praying before meals is a good thing but should not be done as a ritual.

I have a copy of Norman Rockwell's painting, in which the old lady and the young child bow their heads and fold their hands in the diner. totally and completely unaware of the glances of onlookers, they say their grace in unaffected sincerity. This is a picture of two people saying in their hearts, "Thank you, God, for everything." With that kind of public grace there can be no fault. But if I feel compelled to do it because others expect it and are looking, then I might need to consider my motive.