Saying Grace

- Not A Minor Point

Giving thanks before we eat. It was common in America in days gone by. As America has forgotten God, naturally, giving Him thanks would also fall by the wayside.

Let's take a look at that prayer that we commonly call "grace". Why is it called "grace", of all things? The answer isn't hard to find. The word "grace" comes from two Latin root words. "Gratia" which means "thanks" and "gratus" which means "grateful".

I wanted to find out how other cultures say grace. Sadly, I was disappointed. It's no longer important in the United States, and is unimportant worldwide, or so it appears. In a formal setting, Finland starts their meals by having the host raise a glass and saying, "bon apetit". Instead of starting a meal by looking at God, they look at themselves. American etiquette books tell us the meal starts officially when the host picks up his or her fork. I heard Russian Christians started their meals by standing up and thanking God before they eat. After eating, they stand again and thank Him. I suppose they can be more specific after dinner!

A college friend of mine, told me how he loved the time of grace most of all. He said he would pray long prayers then, because he knew he was about to be satisfied with food as soon as he was done. I guess that's kind of like the saying, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach."

Many of us take saying grace for granted. Many new believers are ignorant of the importance of saying grace. Grace is very important for more reasons than one and we, as Christians, need to take it seriously.

4 For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: 5 For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer. 6 If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained.
    1 Timothy 4:4-6
Paul wanted every believer to be aware of the importance of saying grace, as verse 6 shows. Paul would be addressing the issue of Jewish dietary restrictions in verses 4 and 5. The Jews were forbidden to eat certain foods, such as pig. Paul would have been letting us know that such restrictions no longer apply to Christians, if it's sanctified. "Sanctified" means, to separate from profane and dedicate to God. All food is set apart as clean through the act of giving thanks and the word of God. The word of God decreed that all foods were acceptable by Paul (Colossians 2:16) by Jesus (Mark 7:15-23) and in Acts, by God to Peter (Acts 10:11-15).

Another important issue should be noticed here. All Christians are called the "Temple of God" (1 Corinthians 6:19,20; 2 Corinthians 6:14-18). Whatever enters God's Temple needs to be sanctified. To bring something into the temple unsanctified, is an act of desecration. Upon seeing this, we realize that everything we put in our body has to be "sanctified".

Once we understand the need for saying grace, we need to take care it doesn't become rote habit.
9 Save thy people, and bless thine inheritance: feed them also, and lift them up for ever. 
   Psalm 28:9

We need to remember He really is the provider. I remember the grace I was taught in kindergarten, "God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food, amen." For one thing, if you think about it, this isn't even really a prayer. "Let us thank Him" doesn't ever become "thank you God". It's also a "prayer" that doesn't acknowledge Jesus (John 16:23). Vain repetitions are also vain, because we're not really talking with God (Matthew 6:7). How many wives would be happy to hear their husbands recite a chant of "Thank you for the dinner. It smells lovely. I know you worked hard on it. I'm sure it will taste very good." After three or four meals of that, you might end up with a casserole dumped over your head! Remember, grace isn't a "magic formula" - presto change, let's eat.

If it's important enough to put in us, isn't it important enough to be thankful for?

Around the mid-1800's, there was a man of God by the name of George Muller. He started an orphanage in England. He truly leaned on God. He was committed to never asking any man for financial help. He figured, if it was God's work, He would provide. God did. There were numerous times when he would have all the children sitting down at the table for dinner, and have no food to serve them. They would say grace and there would come a knock at the door. The bread wagon broke down right outside the orphanage, and was wondering if they could use some bread. Maybe it would be the milkman with a similar problem. God always provided. With George Muller, grace wasn't just a habit, it was a response to a living faith.

Do we really care about the importance of real grace? It comes down to a principal. Is God with us in everything, or do we just remember Him on Sundays? Is He our life, or our hobby?

  6 In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.    
Proverbs 3:63

  1 Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.    
1 Corinthians 10:31
  17 And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.    
Colossians 3:17

I read a comment from a Christian leader that said we should give thanks for the water we drink. It amazed him, for previously he had never thought to give thanks for water. He must have taken it for granted before. Having something all the time, we tend to begin taking it for granted. We need to be careful not to fall into that trap. As the above verses stated, in all our ways and in all we get, we should give thanks.

Saying grace is also a witness. When you're in mixed company or in public, others notice. It tells them several things. First, it shows you hold a reverence for God. Your life should demonstrate a reverence for Him in everything you do. Second, it shows you're not an ingrate. Who knows, maybe it might make some ungrateful Christians out there feel a little prick in their conscience. Finally, for those who understand grace, it shows you take the issue of purity seriously.

When in public we shouldn't make a big display. (Everybody stand up and hold hands now! With a booming voice.) We also shouldn't go all secret, and try to say it on the sly. We should say it just naturally. How do you say it when you're at home alone? That is what's natural.
There is the point of courtesy when with non-Christians. Don't make them feel like they have to participate with you. After all, if they don't say it naturally, they aren't really grateful and they don't have to worry about sanctifying it to themselves. In this case, you can simply bow your head and pray quietly, like I suspect you do when you're alone.
If these non-Christians you're with want to say grace with you, feel free. This is similar to the incident where Samuel went with Saul to the sacrifice when God had rejected Saul (1 Samuel 15:23-31). Saul was only interested in saving face in front of others, as would the non-Christians in regard to saying grace with you.
Unfortunately, there are too many Christians who are ashamed to let others see them say grace. If you're one of those who pray in disguise, remember, He also will be ashamed of you!
38 Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.    
Mark 8:38

I worked at a small print-shop. The owner took all four employees, of whom I was one, out to breakfast. I bowed my head and silently said grace, when I looked up, one of the other employees almost exploded in hysterics. He thought better of it and stifled himself. My thought, was it shame? No! I thought how pitiful of that person, that he thought manly behavior meant refusing to acknowledge God. How mixed up he was!
We've considered that saying grace in public is a witness, and it has actually opened opportunity for me to witness. Let's consider further ramifications. If others notice, they know you're a Christian and note the rest of your behavior. It's a big testimony. Is it a good testimony or a bad one? Are you sloppy? Rude? Have poor table manners? Are your children uncontrolled? Remember, the world is watching! (So is God, for that matter!)


We need to take a serious look at what we give thanks for, and what we ask God to sanctify to His temple.
I remember a story I thought was rather remarkable. A minister led this husband and wife, who were the caretakers at some kind of mountain resort, to the Lord. When the minister left, they had no Christian fellowship. Winter came and the man was in the habit of drinking wine at dinner-time during the winter. He used to get drunk. Now he was a Christian, but didn't know anything about the Christian view of such an issue. He bowed his head to lead his wife in saying grace for the meal, but found he couldn't do it. They were confused as to why this should be. He told her to look in their New Testament to see if she could find anything about it. She was inexperienced, so with a handicapped attempt, gave up. She encouraged him to just go ahead and have his wine. They would ask the minister later, when they saw him. He tried to say grace again and again was unable. At this, he said to take the wine away, then he was able to say grace. This illustrated the Holy Spirit's guiding, but we can also see its direct application to what we're saying grace for.
Saying grace also acts as a guide. God doesn't provide for substances that enslave our body. Can you give thanks if you're a slave to it? We know He's not to blame for giving us that which enslaves and destroys us. He won't bless such or sanctify it. What you're partaking of is wrong and hence, defiles God's temple. This is sin in a whole new aspect. Paul said:
27a But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection:   
1 Corinthians 9:27a

This is a call to all Christians. Elsewhere, drunkenness is specifically condemned (Ephesians 5:18; Galatians 5:21). What are some areas people get enslaved in? Thinking on this, I came up with alcohol (of course), cigarettes, drugs, coffee, chocolate, and overall gluttony. We know we can't ask God to bless and sanctify things that are stumbling blocks for others (Romans 14:13-15), besides the issue of them being bad for our own bodies. When youth see you drinking, smoking or taking drugs, they may want to act like a grown-up and imitate you. You may tell them, "don't smoke", but they imitate and hence, harm their own bodies, start an enslavement, are enticed into disobeying their parents, break the law, and maybe even begin stealing and lying. After all, a lot of kids can't afford to feed their addiction, hence steal, and have to lie to cover it up. All this, because of your putting something into your body that you could never rightly say grace for anyway. As you may have noticed, it snowballs.
What about that dessert or candy bar? Can you bless those? Surely they're not good for you? These are legitimate questions. First, all our eating should be in proper moderation. Hopefully you wouldn't go to your local buffet restaurant and fill up on nothing but desserts! Such dining and blessing could seriously be called into question. Balance, in a view of maintaining your health and the ability to say, "no" in the middle of a candy bar, are important. Enslavement to the destruction of your flesh in anything, is wrong.

It's one thing to have an addiction, and realize it's wrong before God, but another to successfully quit it. After all, "addiction" means you can't quit it. So, what do you do about an addiction? First, as I just said, you must realize how really bad it is before God. If you don't, you won't diligently aim your guns at it. You have to care about God and the importance of your witness, your purity and the dedication of all your life to Him. This is the starting point. Jesus said:
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 
   Matthew 5:6

His promises don't fall to the floor void. A major problem, is that we think we're hungering and thirsting when our hearts deceiving us. For the saint, God faithfully works with His Spirit to uncover this area in our hearts. If we refuse to receive His enlightenment, the wall will remain and our victories won't come. Many saints can testify of their own experiences as to how they convinced themselves they were diligently following God, when in reality, they were adamant against His discipline. When they finally broke, confessed and repented, they knew God's victorious presence and overcoming life. (Take note: The hardened area may be totally unrelated to the addiction. The hard area acts as a wall keeping God's Spirit at bay in our whole life.) This breakthrough into victory, certainly doesn't mean there won't be danger from future enslavements, but He does supply daily, according to our needs, as we seek Him (Matthew 6:31-34). This whole subject of addiction is a complete study in itself, but the solution, in a nutshell, meets this form.
We need to take care to not let our saying grace become rote habit. God wants true gratefulness, not mere formality. We also need to value the importance of keeping ourselves "sanctified" before God, in fear and trembling. The base of this issue must pull us back to "the fear of the Lord" (Job 28:28; Proverbs 1:7). The need to say grace and the ability to say grace, is a constant reminder of our relationship with God. Hold it in this value, and don't think of it as a minor point.
Bon apetit!

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Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible

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