Is Offering “Grace” Essential?

By Chuck Bartlett

You may or may not be familiar with the term “offering grace”, but many religious people use the term to describe offering thanks to God before a meal. This is not so much a study of the term “offering grace” as it is on the giving of thanks for one’s food. Is it really required of Christians? When one is in public or at work, should a child of God really bow their head and thank God for what they are about to eat?  Let’s see what the word of God teaches us about this.

Prayer is a vital part of the Christian life. As Paul put it, saints are to pray without ceasing (I Thess. 5:17). Interestingly the brethren were also admonished in this text that “in everything give thanks” (verse 18). Did followers of the Lord really pray before all their meals? Consider our Savior when He walked on this earth. When Jesus miraculously fed the five thousand with five loaves and two small fish, He had the people sit down. He then offered thanks before everyone ate (John 6:11). Jesus also offered thanks before He fed four thousand people with seven loaves of bread and a few fish (Mark 8:6-7).

Obviously, Jesus sets forth a wonderful pattern to follow. However, this was not unique to Jesus. In Acts 27, you can read where Paul and others were on a ship in the midst of a terrible storm while he was being transported as a prisoner to Rome (verse 13-20). The crew was so busy trying to save the ship that they had not taken time to eat for fourteen days. Paul urges the centurion and soldiers to eat (verse 34). Notice Paul’s activity in verse 35 though.

“And when he had said these things, he took bread and gave thanks to God in the presence of them all; and when he had broken it he began to eat.”  Who takes time to pray after not eating for 14 days? Who takes time to publicly pray when surrounded by people who don’t follow the Lord? God’s people do.

Some people are rightly concerned with what Jesus said in Matthew 6 about not wanting people to pray for the purpose of drawing attention to themselves (verse 5). This is correct – it is one thing to be somewhere when you quietly bow your head and silently offer thanks for your meal. It is other matter altogether to stand up when you are at Wendy’s having lunch and announce to all in the restaurant, “Excuse me everyone, please be quiet, I am about to pray to my God for the food I am about to receive!”

When Christ taught about prayer, He mentioned that we ought to ask our Father for our daily bread (Matt. 6:11). If we are provided with the very thing we petitioned the Father for, why would we not thank Him for it? Those who are faithful followers of the Lord know that every perfect gift comes from above (James 1:17). We may have a job and we may have earned the money to buy the food we are eating. Yet we need to ask ourselves, who gave us life? Who gave us the ability to work? Who provided the materials for people to work for? As we can see, we are nothing without our Creator.

We should not be surprised that even on the night of His betrayal when He instituted the Lord’s Supper, Jesus first gave thanks before eating and drinking (Matt. 26:26-28). This clearly reveals people who pray before meals are not just “traditionalists” or mindlessly praying without purpose. To even suggest that praying for food is not necessary is wrong on many different levels. After all, what Christian would not want to express their gratitude for their physical blessings?

No, praying for our food is not a man-made tradition. It is that which saints are admonished to do with thanksgiving (I Tim. 4:3-5).


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