I’ve been rattling off the traditional Catholic meal-time prayer for as long as I can remember. (That’s the one that goes “Bless us, Oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, from thy bounty, through Christ Our Lord, Amen.”) After enough years though, it gets really hard to remember to pay attention to the words. I went looking for a few new mealtime prayers to shake up my routine, and found prayers from many different cultures and religions–even an atheist “blessing” that even as a Catholic, I could gladly say. Go figure! Here are a handful of my favorites:
God is great and God is good, And we thank him for our food; By his hand we must be fed, Give us Lord, our daily bread. Amen.
This one’s simple enough for a preschooler to pick up, and it’s surprisingly comprehensive. I love talking about God’s greatness and His goodness in the same sentence, especially when it’s contrasted with our own dependence on Him. We can’t feed ourselves–we must be fed by his hand–but that’s nothing to worry about when you remember how great and good He is.
Freestyle, ending with “We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.”
A family of Baptists who I am good friends with pray this way. They informally mention what they are thankful for, as a blessing over the food, and remember to end it in the name of Jesus, knowing that we will be given “whatever you ask the Father in my name.” (Jn 15:16) I love the regularity of praying the same thing every day, but this kind of prayer does make it easier to remember to pay attention.
Blessed are you, Lord our God, king of the universe, by whose word all things exist.-Traditional Jewish blessing
My grandparents are Hebrew Catholics, and we always prayed this prayer, both in English and in Hebrew, before meals. It’s another succinct, profound way of reminding yourself that God is responsible for everything that exists, so we ought to be grateful. The Jewish faith has a separate version of this prayer for bread, wine, fruit, and other produce, but this one is kind of a catch-all for any category.
O Thou, the Sustainer of our bodies, hearts, and souls, Bless all that we thankfully receive.-Sufi Meal Prayer, by Inayat Kahn
Yes, it’s Sufi, but it still hits every point that I would want to remember. God is the one who holds us in existence, our bodies and our souls, and we owe Him gratitude, and depend on His blessing. I’d never have know this wasn’t originally a Catholic prayer. I love the reminder that God is taking care of our hearts, as well, since, emotional as we all are, we’ve all suffered from heartbreak.
For the meal we are about to eat, for those that made it possible, and for those with whom we are about to share it, we are thankful.– Humanist benediction
Okay, I’m including this one partly tongue-in-cheek, since it’s not meant to be an actual prayer, but I’m not the one who decided to call it a benediction, so that’s on them. It was written for atheists who wanted to say some words before taking a meal together, without actually praying. I am laughing, though, because if you mentally include God as part of “those that made [the meal] possible,” then you’re golden. Gratitude to the cook, and gratitude to the creator of the food, too! I have no problem with this prayer.
Ending any prayer with “… And may the Lord provide for the needs of others.”
This is traditional at the Madonna House Apostolate where my big brother is a member, and I’ve always found it touching. Every prayer of gratitude should come with a prayer that everybody’s needs be met, not just your own.