Saying Grace

I remember as a kid, when the family would gather before a meal, one of the adults would say, "Can someone please say grace?" 

"Grace!" would be my quick reply. :-)

The Judeo-Christian tradition of saying grace is an old tradition, to be sure. But is it Scriptural? First Fruits of Zion discusses this:

Blessing God at Meals

Thought for the Week

"We thank You, our holy Father, for Your holy name that You have caused to dwell in our hearts, and for the knowledge, faithfulness and eternal life that You have made known to us through Your servant Yeshua. Yours is the glory forever."

-First doxology of the grace after meals from the Didache as translated for First Fruit's of Zion's We Thank You.)


When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you. (Deuteronomy 8:10)

In Christian homes, it is traditional to offer a prayer of thanksgiving before meals. This is a Christian tradition inherited from Judaism. In Judaism, it is traditional to bless God for the food He has provided prior to partaking of it. We read of Yeshua keeping this tradition several times in the Gospels. Sometimes Christians refer to this as "blessing the food," but in Judaism, the food is not blessed, God is blessed for providing the food. In any case, blessing God before meals is a precious tradition of the Master and one we would all do well to imitate.

However, the Torah commands us to also bless God after we have eaten. The Torah says, "When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you" (Deuteronomy 8:10).

The Torah gave this commandment to the children of Israel so that they would not forget God. The materialism of wealth and success are dangerous to our souls. When we are fat and happy, we are apt to ignore God, forget about His commandments and turn away from Him. Moses warned the children of Israel that their success and prosperity in the land of Israel would give them proud hearts and make them forget the LORD. He warned the Israelites not to tell themselves, "My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth" (Deuteronomy 8:17).

This can be compared to a young student who received an allowance from his father while he studied. The monthly allowance covered all of his living expenses. His father also paid tuition for his son. So long as the student depended on the monthly allowance money from his father, he was careful to meet all of his father's expectations in school, write home frequently and live in keeping with his father's directives. After taking a campus job, though, the student found he no longer needed his father's monthly allowance for living expenses. He no longer worried about meeting his father's expectations. However, he forgot that his father was paying the tuition as well.

Judaism preserves an ancient after-meals prayer of thanksgiving that is still recited today. The four blessings of the traditional Grace After Meals can be found in any Jewish prayer book. The oldest version of Grace After Meals is preserved in the Didache. This early, apostolic-age Grace After Meals was composed by early believers. They recited it together after meals to fulfill the commandment of Deuteronomy 8:10. Like the traditional Jewish version of Grace After Meals, it consists of four blessings thanking God for provision and looking forward to the Messianic era.

You can find the text from the Didache blessings in Hebrew and English in First Fruits of Zion's new prayerbook We Thank You. Click here to learn more about the commandment of blessing God at meals.

Derek Leman digs deeper into the tradition and reviews FFOZ's book on the tradition of saying grace after meals: We Thank You, a new book offering "a simple and innovative liturgy for disciples of Yeshua by weaving the ancient meal blessings of Judaism together with recently discovered prayers of the early believers."

I have a confession to make. Growing up, the tradition of saying grace had become meaningless to me, and now as an adult I do not say grace before or after the meal. It does seem to be a commandment to thank the Lord after a meal; perhaps I am compelled to reinstitute it! :-) 

Do you fine blog readers say grace at all, before or after your meal?


  1. Hey Judah,

    When I was growing up my immediate family never said grace. When I went to visit my grandparents, my grandfather always said grace before a meal. Funny thing is, he spoke quickly and kind of mumbled, so I could only make out half the words. It wasn't till years later, after we started to say grace in my home, that I asked my mother just what he was he was praying.

    In my home we say grace before a meal. If it is just us, we usually pray something on the order of "Jesus, thank you for this food. Amen!" If we have company, then I will usually lead us in a longer prayer, but not too long. I hate it when people offer long drawn out prayers before a meal.

    It's funny you should mention the praying after a meal passage. Someone I know mentioned it to me one time, but only to say that it is OK to pray after the meal if you forget to pray before the meal. I guess that he didn't see it as having to do both. :)

    By the way, I just got home from my trip. I stayed in Mendota Heights. My meeting was in Chetek, WI. It was about a 2-2.5 hour drive, so Wed was a long day. I thought about looking you up Wed, but I didn't get back to the hotel until late.

    In Christ,

  2. I want to do this, but do not know how to introduce it to my family. Today we watched The Weather Channel during lunch, wondering about hurricane IKE (we live in Texas!)
    I almost wish I knew someone that has this habit so that I could be invited to their home, with my family and experience it first. Then, implementing it would maybe give us a better picture!

  3. Gary,

    That's funny about your grandpa. :-) My grandparents usually sing a hymn before a meal when there's a lot of family gathered.

    Regarding your trip, yeah, I was thinking, "Hmmm, will I receive a call from Gary today?"

    Well too bad you got back late. The offer still stands, if you're up here in MN with some free time, dinner's on me. :-)


  4. Hey Dorla.

    One good thing about it is, there's no proper thing you have to say. The commandment is simply to bless the Lord for what he's given.

    I'm considering instituting it in our house, since it is a commandment after all. We'll see how it works out.

  5. I was raised Roman Catholic (if that's relevant at all), and we (the Catholics) have a prayer that we say before meals. Sadly, we (my family) weren't very good about saying it before every meal as I was growing up; usually just important meals like Thanksgiving and when extended family were eating together.

    Now I work in a Lutheran church, and they also have a meal prayer, though it is different from the Catholic version. Jake grew up Protestant, and he will give an informal prayer at certain meals when it's requested, but not on a regular basis. Working in the church has made me more self-conscious about my religion, and I've been wanting to teach our daughter to say grace at meals, but not sure how to go about doing it (without feeling a bit like a hypocrite), since I've been a slacker about it in the past years.

    Also, semi-relevant and what I've learned from my limited exposure to Japanese culture, the Japanese have two sayings that they say before and after each meal. "Itadakimasu" is announced before everyone eats, and "gochisousama" is announced after everyone is finished. They are basically a before- and after-"thank you" for the food. Just some bit of culture that I find to be interesting ^_^

  6. Hey Michelle.

    That's cool. Interesting to know of the Japanese culture -- I wondered if this was only a western religious phenomenon or what. Thanks for that.

    I can relate to your situation about teaching your daughter to say grace. It was kind of a dead, meaningless ritual for me (and I don't think faith in God should be a dead ritual). So it's a tough one for me as well.

    I didn't know you worked at a church. Cool stuff. What do you do there, out of curiosity?

  7. Well I work at the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, which is sort of the "headquarters" for all LCMS churches. I work in the finance area in the World Mission department. So I work on missionary payroll, wire money to the international fields, and process expense reimbursements, along with a few other miscellaneous finance-related tasks.

  8. The most common table prayer in my family, both immediate and extended, has to be one or more variations on the old Lutheran table prayer. Generally, this is combined with an excerpt from Psalm 118:
    O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: his mercy endureth for ever.

    Interestingly, there is some variation on how they are combined. I suspect originally, the psalm was used as a post-meal prayer, but in my immediate family they have always been used together prior to.

  9. Josh,

    Thanks for visiting, man.

    That particular psalm is one of my favorites...there's a beautiful Hebrew version of that psalm: Hodu l'Adonai ki tov (Thanks to the Lord, He is good).mp3

    Michelle, you on Facebook these days?

  10. Ah, yes, that's the one they say where I work.

    Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest. Let thy gifts to us be blessed.

    The Catholic prayer my family would say goes:

    Bless us, O Lord, for these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    And I've been trying to avoid facebook and all those sites, but I'm starting to think that I'm missing out :\ I can feel my willpower start to crumble... Ask me again in another day or two ;)

  11. Cool.

    Don't go on MySpace. That place is a mess, phishing everywhere, absolute disaster area of a social networking site.

    Facebook is clean and crisp. Let me know when you're there.

    Take care Michelle.