Dad, How Do You Prayer before Meals?

Dad, do you use meal times to simply repeat a rote prayer, offering up your “duty” for God? Are meal time prayers simply a time to say the refrain, “Thank you, God for this meal…bless us now”?

I want to challenge you, Dad, to rethink your meal time prayers. It is so easy for me to slip into the “Thank you, Lord. Amen” prayer, especially if I am really hungry. That is not, however, how I can best lead my wife and daughter. Most of the spiritual instruction and formation that takes place in the home is not programmed or planned. It happens on the fly and in the mundane moments. My daughter is too young to catch what I’m praying, but as she grows to understand speech, she will begin to see that her mommy and daddy takes prayer seriously–before a meal, or any other time.

Prayer times are integral for saturating your family with the gospel. If prayer is simply a time to the usual, your kids will severely misunderstand the point of prayer. Prayer is a time of talking to our heavenly Father, in the name of the Lord Jesus, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Meal time prayers designed by God to teach and lead your family how to feast on the goodness and beauty of the Triune God, not the food on the table.

Meal time prayers do not have to be long. In fact, your kids (and maybe your wife) will probably be angry if they are! Even a short prayer, however, can be gospel-drenched and instructive for everyone at the table. Let me suggest a few meal time prayers to say with your family.

Father in heaven, thank you for another day of your mercy. You did not have to sustain us until now, but you have and any more moments we have together will be because of your sovereign grace. We praise you for your providence in giving us food to eat. Help us glorify you in our eating and drinking by remembering this food comes from you. Remind us as good as this food is, your Son is our true soul food. Only he can satisfy us and make us whole. No amount of meat, bread, milk, or even ice cream can do that. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.

Father, you are glorious and good. This food reminds us that we are dependent on you, but you are dependent on no one. We must eat and drink to have energy, but your energy is self-contained and you never get tired. May we never forget our need for your constant help, whether we feel tired or not. We are thankful you have helped us most through your Son, who died to forgive the times we broke your rules and the times we have tried to keep them to earn your love. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen.

Father, there is no one like you. Before we eat this great meal, we want to recognize that you have created every flavor, designed each smell, and assigned certain textures for this food and drink. Help us enjoy our meal and remember that you have kindly given it to us because you are good. Most importantly, would we remember that you have given us your perfect Son Jesus, who has done for us what we could not do for ourselves. He gave himself on the cross so that we might join him and become your sons and daughters. In His great name, I pray. Amen.

You don’t have to pray these exact words. But you need to find your way to exalt Jesus and his good news, and do it often…even before feasting on macaroni and cheese.


Joburg Summer Project

Part 8 in a 10 part series. View series intro and index.

There are too many pictures from this 5-week period to share them all.  These don’t do justice to the wonderful, Christ-filled experience of this mission’s trip!


BEAM Africa

Part 7 in a 10 part series. View series intro and index.

Life Theology

Confessions of a 9 Year-Old Theologian

Theological perplexities are not supposed to happen to a 9 year-old.  At that age, you are meant to play with Legos, watch Saturday morning cartoons, and get excited about shoes that light up on the heels.  I had the latter in abundance.  But at times, the former showed up during long sleepless nights.

In 1993, I didn’t have a blog to confess to the world my problematic theology.  But I’m telling you now.  Let’s call it social networking transparency.

Deep breath, James.  Okay.  Here goes nothing.

There were times when I stayed awake for hours, desperately praying to God that I wouldn’t be that guy to get to heaven and then, like Lucifer, say, “I want to be God.”  I was afraid of going from heaven to hell in a heartbeat because of five words.  This prayer happened often over the course of a few months.  At some point, I stopped praying and believing that.  Looking back, I realize that God was gracious to cause me to face issues of election, perseverance of the saints, God’s unchanging nature, and his eternal love without knowing it.  In other words, he was creating a theologian.

My theology isn’t perfect today.  No one’s is.  But by God’s grace, I know a bit more than I did when I was nine.  Whoever is foreknown by God is also predestined, called, justified, and glorified (see Rom. 8:29-30).  He guarantees I’m eternally secure.

What thoughts did you have about God growing up that were a little “off”?


How Should Christians Respond to Obama’s Education Speech?

Obama’s speech on education, which he will give today, has caused quite a stir among Christians, most notably on the Desiring God blog.  There, John Piper expressed his excitment over what the President said.  Basically, Obama challenges students to work hard, be responsible, and have a positive attitude with school.  He said that students need to turn off the TV and get off the Xbox.  I couldn’t agree more.

Some Christians try to find a devil behind everything Obama says.  Some Christians will not give “honor to whom honor is owed” (Rom. 13:7).  I think that’s wrong.  I don’t agree with most of Obama’s policies, but I can commend a man when he speaks truth.

With that in mind, I think if you are one of the Christians who believes you cannot applaud something that Obama says because of his other policies/ideas (which very well may be moral failures), then you are ignoring an important theme in Scripture:

  • Remember that King Cyrus was a pagan ruler of a pagan nation, yet he was the Lord’s “anointed,” who was used to redeem his people. God said, “I call you by your name, I name you, though you do not know me…I equip you, though you do not know me” (Isa. 45:1-13). It is clear that God can do good through people who don’t know him personally.
  • Remember that God has common grace on all of creation: “For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45). This includes Obama and all the unsaved teachers who teach our children.
  • Remember that God loves justice wherever he finds it because God is just: “A false balance is an abomination to the LORD, but a just weight is his delight” (Pr. 11:1). And “A just balance and scales are the LORD’s; all the weights in the bag are his work” (Pr. 16:11). This applies even to Obama and education in the United States.
  • Remember that Obama is a “servant for your good” if you are a believer (Rom. 13:4), whether you agree with him or not. Are some of his policies bad? Yes. Was there anything wrong with what he said in this speech? If there was, it was minimal.  Would you fault your non-Christian employer who demands his employees to work harder instead of showing up late, leaving early, and taking an extra long lunch because he didn’t mention Jesus? I doubt it.
  • Remember, finally, that Paul quoted pagan religions in evangelism and teaching (Acts 17:22-34; Titus 1:12). There are commonalities that we can share with non-believers in order to point them to Jesus. Obama can’t point people to Jesus if he’s not a believer, so we can’t expect him to do that. The job falls on us Christians to find common ground in order to tell him (and others), “Look there! That’s Jesus. He made hard work. He created math and science and English and history. And he gives us strength to learn and write papers and do science projects!  To know this Jesus, that is what our children need the most.”

So we pray for Obama and beg God to let light shine in his heart. But we also give honor to whom honor is due. We don’t encourage our children to be like Obama or a teacher or anyone else (not even John Piper!!!). We point them to the cross, teaching them to be conformed to and led by Jesus. As we do that, we tell them to rejoice in truth wherever it is found because all objective truth is God’s truth. Education is good. Hard work is good. Addiction to TV and Xbox or anything else is bad. We praise God for these truths. He is the author of them.

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