Most of us are familiar with the traditional prayer we say before meals: Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty through Christ our Lord. Amen. We call this prayer grace. Praying it reminds us of the essential giftedness of food. But isn’t all of life a gift?
The British writer, G. K. Chesterton thought so. That’s why he suggested we pray grace not only before meals, but also before other activities throughout the day. This is a practice I have adopted over the years.
For example, upon awakening, while still in bed, I make the sign of the cross or I trace a cross on my forehead. Then I say something like, “Good morning, God” or “Bless this day, Jesus” or “Melannie reporting for duty, Lord.” That’s my grace before starting my day.
Here are some other times during the day when we can “say grace”:
+ While getting dressed. Many religious congregations had the practice of praying while putting on the various parts of the religious habit—the dress, cape, veil, etc. I’m not saying we should return to that. But we could utter a simple, “Bless this body and all it will do for You today, God” or “Thank you for the clothes I am lucky to have.”
+ Before praying. We can simply ask God to bless our prayer time. And we can be thankful that we have time to pray.
+ Before reading the newspaper, watching the news on TV, or checking the headlines online. We can pray for all the individuals and situations we will read or hear about today in the news. And we can ask God to make us attentive to the stories that touch us most deeply and might be stirring us to action.
+ Before driving anywhere. While pulling out of the driveway, we can utter a quick prayer asking God to help us to drive responsibly and to bless the purpose of our trip. As a child, I
remember when our family came home from a trip—perhaps after visiting our grandparents—as we pulled into our driveway, my mother would often say something like this: “And we thank you, Lord, for a safe and pleasant journey.”
+ When getting the cart in the grocery store. We can thank God for the abundance of food we have to choose from. And we can remind ourselves to pick up something for our local food pantry.
+ Before meeting with family and friends. We can say “thank you” to God for having these individuals in our lives. We can also ask God to bless our time together.
+ Before reading a book, watching a movie, or listening to music. We can thank God for the arts and the enrichment they bring into our lives.
+ Before starting a project. Whether we’re writing a report, beginning a meeting, cooking a meal, raking leaves, or cleaning a bathroom, we can ask God for the attentiveness and strength to do the project well—and to do it with gratitude and joy.
+ Before relaxing. Whether we’re finding our seat at the theater, sitting down to watch our favorite team on TV, heading for the golf course, or starting our latest craft project, we can say thank you to God for having this time to engage in an activity that relaxes us and brings us joy and satisfaction.
+ Before going for a walk. We might thank God for the ability to walk and for having a safe place in which to walk. We can also ask that we might be attentive to the people and things we see along the way.
Grace: It’s not just for meals anymore. It’s a way of making us more aware of the many gifts we receive on any given day. And, more importantly, saying grace connects us with God, the Giver of all gifts.
Happy Thanksgiving to each one of you!
Our prayer/song is a medley of traditional Thanksgiving songs.
Do you have any response to this reflection or the song or Thanksgiving Day itself?