So much of my day is go-go-go, leaving me feeling completely frenzied by the time dinner reaches the table. I’m confident I’m not alone in this. So at mealtime, like many families, we like to pause, take a breath, and give thanks before we dig in. In theory this is a lovely practice, but in reality my children like to drown out our prayers with their own shouts and laughter. Nevertheless, my husband and I persist.
Author Anne Lammott writes that when saying grace before mealtime, “for a minute, our stations are tuned to a broader, richer radius.” It is this expansiveness that we hope to achieve through this simple act of gratitude, as we slow down our lives, take our eyes off our phones, and hold off on worrying about the future.
While my husband and I usually give thanks by reciting the same prayer I grew up with — “Bless us O Lord and these thy gifts…” — we could probably benefit from a little variety. So I gathered five different ways to give thanks before mealtime, inspired by a range of cultures, traditions, and faiths:
Give thanks for the food we eat, the land that provided it, and the hands that worked to bring it to us. Here is an example of a Zen blessing from Thich Nhat Hanh:
This food is the gift of the whole universe – the earth, the sky, and much hard work. May we live in a way that makes us worthy to receive it.
Give thanks for one another, our time together, our companionship, and our shared love. Here is an example from an unknown author:
Thank you for
The food before us
The friends beside us
And the love between us.
#3 Those in Need
Give thanks for our blessings and acknowledge those in need. Here is an example of a Latin American mealtime prayer:
To those who have hunger, give bread.
And to those who have bread, give the hunger for justice.
#4 Divine Presence
Give thanks for God, a higher power, a divine presence, or something beyond ourselves. Here is an example from an unknown author:
For food in a world where many walk in hunger;
For faith in a world where many walk in fear;
For friends in a world where many walk alone;
We give you thanks, O Lord.
#5 The Present Moment
Give thanks for the present moment, right here and right now. Here is an example of a Quaker tradition:
Participate in a “silent grace” by joining hands and silently collecting your thoughts, meditating, or praying. After 30 seconds, one person begins the conclusion of the silent grace by squeezing the hands of the people seated adjacent, and this “squeeze” continues to be passed around the table until everyone begins to eat and talk.