How Saying Grace at Dinner Is a Time to Talk to God

The deeper stuff of the day can come out as a family gathers around the table.

Posted in , Jul 19, 2021

Family saying grace

Giving thanks out loud for the food we eat seems like a no brainer. Over the years it’s been a feature at family dinners in my childhood and when my wife and I were raising our children, and still counts today for a pair of empty nesters. Here’s what has made it special for me.

Hearing my dad pray. My dad’s graces were legendary back in the day. Long, extemporaneous prayers, Dad would go on for what seemed like hours—it couldn’t have been that long—as we kids sat with our hands in our laps, smelling the food.

What Dad’s graces taught me was invaluable. He would put everything into his prayers: what he heard on the news driving home from work, what he knew of our lives, and whatever Mom had cooked. “Bless this food to our use,” he’d say, “and us to thy service. And bless the hands that prepared it.” Mom’s much blessed hands!

“Your dad’s prayers are like the six o’clock news,” a friend once said. Indeed. No tidbit was beneath inclusion. Thanks to Dad, I discovered that prayer was an opportunity to give to God everything that was going on in your head. 

Moreover, when I heard Dad pray for a sister’s drill team tryouts or an upcoming French test or the treehouse my brother was building in the backyard or a piano recital I had to give, I discovered that Dad cared about us. God loved us. Dad did, too.

Letting our kids pray. When we did grace with our children growing up, we let each of them take a turn. We’d bow our heads and one of the kids would speak. Now, you’d think whatever they’d say would be short and sweet. Not at all. They could go on at great length.

In the process, though, there was sharing. We learned what was really worrying them and what they wanted God’s help for. Honesty counted for a lot. They’d expect just as much when we prayed. We all try to teach our kids about God. Sharing prayers said even more.

Praying together as a couple. My wife and I will look across each other at the table and try to remember who said grace last. “Your turn,” she’ll say. Or I’ll say. We bow our heads and talk. To God. Say “Amen” and then talk to each other.

In a marriage it’s easy to spend time doing the necessary check-in conversations. “Did you pay the mortgage?” “Has the credit card bill come in yet?” “You need anything from the grocery store?” The deeper stuff can get delayed. Or forgotten.

Grace is a way to open us up there. I love how the concept of God’s grace is there in what we call this daily activity of prayer. We call on God’s grace as we say grace. Giving thanks not just for food but for so much more.

May grace always be a part of our lives.   

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