Making the Most of the Mealtime Prayer

In our home, spiritual formation and instruction happens “along the way.” We have a three-and-a-half year old and a 20-month old. Our oldest is not quite old enough for a formal “family worship” time. Yet she is old enough to comprehend some spiritual disciplines, particularly prayer. Our youngest even sometimes has the awareness to stop what she is doing to pray with us. In our home, we pray all the time. We pray spontaneously for needs that arise in our family or in others. We pray on our way to worship with God’s people. We pray at bedtime. We pray when there are meltdowns. But one of the most advantageous times to form and instruct our children in prayer is, of course, at meals.

Most mealtime prayers for Christians, I would guess, are simply rote prayers, offering up our “duty” to God. We say the same thing over and over because we are either really hungry or, if we are honest, we don’t really know what to say when people are around–especially squirmy, chatty children.

Parents (especially dads), I want you to rethink your mealtime prayers. Dads, I especially want to challenge you here: this is prime opportunity to lead quietly, humbly, and simply in the mundane moments–before a meal. Mealtime prayers can lead our family to feast on the goodness and beauty of the Triune God, not the food on the table. These prayers do not have to be long. In fact, your kids (and maybe your spouse) will probably resent you if they are. A short prayer can be just as formative and powerful as a long one. (Let’s not forget: the Lord’s prayer is pretty short!)

So, let me suggest a few simple mealtime 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 live ultimately not on food alone, but on every word that comes from your mouth. We are thankful for Jesus, your ultimate Word, who died and rose from the dead to redeem us so that we might live through him. In his 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 your Son Jesus became a part of creation and took on texture, flesh and blood, so that he might do for us what we could not do for ourselves. May we feast on him today. In his name, I pray. Amen.

It’s not important to use these exact words. But for the joy and progress of your family, we parents need to exalt Jesus and his good news, and do it often–even before feasting on macaroni and cheese.