Of Christian prayers, those related to food can be the most theologically problematic. I remember hearing a missionary speak about how others in her mission team had become ill and she had not, and she attributed it to her “praying over her food” – as though (1) her Christian co-workers did not, (2) prayer effectively prevents food poisoning, and (3) God would vindictively punish Christian missionaries with diarrhea because their prayers were not…I can’t even imagine what.
Likewise something as simple as prayer for “daily bread” is not straightforward – and not only because of the translation issues related to that phrase (which I’ll leave to one side for the present). What does such a prayer mean? That the Wonder factory workers and truck drivers will not go on strike? Or that the drive to the store will not be plagued by inconveniently busy traffic? Or is it really a prayer that we’ll earn enough to buy food – and not spend it unwisely? Do such prayers even remain meaningful in our time?
There are quite a lot of discussions online about secular and atheist graces for use before meals. Lots of people agree that expressing gratitude before eating is appropriate. It is how to do so that is challenging – more challenging than many who say grace regularly may realize. Because even from the perspective of a Christian, one perhaps does best to leave God out of it, and express thankfulness for having in a way that does not imply that God selected you to have a surplus and others to starve. If we treat God in the traditional and popular interventionist manner, we end up with the conundrum that is summed up in the following image that has been making the rounds:
I would like to hear from readers of this blog who say grace. Does God feature in the words you use? If your giving thanks is religious in nature, have you found a way to avoid the implication that God has set up a world in which some have access to as much bread as they wish, whether they pray for it/give thanks for it or not, while others’ prayers go unanswered? Does your way of giving thanks include a concern for social justice which acknowledges the problem of some not having enough to eat, and our responsibility as human beings to address that problem and not merely expect some sort of divine intervention to sort it out?
I’m currently pondering the matter and trying to formulate a “grace” for use in my own family. If I come up with something, I’ll share it. And if you share one here that seems better than anything I am likely to come up with, and so I decide to borrow it, rest assured that I will give thanks using appropriate words for what you have provided!
Let me end by sharing this image that I found when I searched for “daily bread”…