Monday, June 17, 2013

Praying for Nourishment

My father used to pray the same prayer every day, as we sat down to eat:

        Father, bless this food, and let it nourish our bodies.

It was a simple prayer, but a good one.  My busy childish mind didn't linger too long on it, but I heard it every day, at every meal:  Bless this food, Father.  Allow it to nourish our bodies.  Now a mother herself, my wonderful sister turned it into a little song for her children to sing as a mealtime prayer:

          Thank you, Lord, for this food
          You always provide for us
          Bless this food to our bodies
          Let our bodies do your work.

Whether I was sitting at the family table, or in a school cafeteria, or feeding my baby mashed avocado, I prayed this prayer.  It was part of our ritual of eating, this song of joy and thanksgiving before meals.  Some days my mind did not rest fully in the words, like a pebble skimming over a pond. Other days, I plunged more deeply.  I regarded this prayer as a pointing-to my greater sense of thankfulness, for all of the many provisions I have received from the Father, from my shoe laces to forgiveness and grace.

I remember the first time I prepared a traditional nourishing meal for my children and sat down with them to eat it and prayed this prayer, once again: Father, let this food nourish our bodies.

I was sitting at the table between my two children and I had just carefully prepared two little plates full of food.  I had done as much as I could on that day, with the time, money, energy available to me, to give them nourishing foods. And there was something incredibly satisfying about that.  The food I set before them was good; good in that soul-satisfying sense, the kind of good that means when you look at it, you hear the far-off echoes of Genesis whisper in your heart:  God saw all that He had made, and it was very good. 

But because I am little and He is big, because I am creature and He is Creator, because I know that I am finite, frail and fallible, and that He is my Great Daddy Who Knows Everything, I asked Him to bless it.  I asked Him to allow the to food nourish their little bodies. 
Because the truth is, perfect preparation does not always mean perfect success.  Not in academics.   Not in health.  Not in anything.  I bump up against the limits of my knowledge.  I bump up against the limits of my time, resources, energy.  I do as much as I can, and then, with my spoon in the air, I stop and pray:  Let it nourish our bodies.

If you pray, what do you pray for your meals? Have the words changed over the years?   

Shared at Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesdays, Real Food Wednesday, Thank Your Body Thursday, Tasty Traditions.


  1. So sweet and well written. My dad says a similar prayer.

    And we mix it up around our table. From the "God's been good to me, and so I thank the Lord..." song to one sung to the tune of Star Wars =), ("Thank you, Lord, for giving us food...Thank you, Lor-ord, Thank you, Lor-ord") we like to engage the kids in a variety of ways, even giving them opportunities to communicate their thankfulness.

    We started a 1000 Gifts journal (a la Ann Voskamp) that we store in our napkin basket in the middle of the dining table and will regularly pull that out and share our gifts while enjoying our meal together. (Well, it's not always as enjoyable as I would like with 4 kids 8 and under...)

    But I love your connection between the goodness of eating food that actually nourishes us like our prayers request. And that it is ultimately God who nourishes our bodies and spirits. Thanks for this reflection...

  2. I ask the Lord to bless the food to the nourishment and strength of my body. And sometimes, I include to bless those gardeners, pickers, packagers, truckers, store clerks and everyone involved in providing the food to the store shelves so that I could buy it.


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