Aleteia logoAleteia logo
Aleteia
Thursday 23 September |
Saint of the Day: St. Pio of Pietrelcina
home iconSpirituality
line break icon

Why early Christians prayed before and after meals

PRAY

Monkey Business Images | Shutterstock

Philip Kosloski - published on 11/27/19

The custom of praying at the beginning and conclusion of a meal is even older than Christianity.

Many are familiar with the popular Christian practice of praying before a meal, but did you know that ancient Christians also prayed after a meal as well?

Both customs are very old and even pre-date Christianity.

According to The Sacramentals of the Holy Catholic Church by Andrew Lambing, this practice of blessing food and giving thanks to God goes all the way back to Moses.

Moses, laying down the law for the chosen people, says: “When you have eaten, and are full, bless the Lord.”‘ According to the Talmud, the form of prayer recited by the Jews after each meal was this: “Blessed be you, O Lord, our God, the King of the world, who has produced this food (or drink) from the earth (or the vine).”

There are multiple examples in the New Testament of Jesus blessing meals and giving thanks to God, following these Jewish traditions.

Early Christians were quick to adopt this practice, but altered it to reflect Christian theology. Many of the Church Fathers commented on this topic and encouraged their followers to do the same.

Tertullian says: “Prayer begins and ends the meal.”St. Athanasius bears witness, in the following words, to the custom of his early day: “When we sit down to table, and take the bread to break it, we make the sign of the cross over it three times, and return thanks. After the repast we renew our thanksgiving by saying thrice: ‘The good and merciful Lord has given food to them that fear Him. Glory be to the Father,'” etc. The austere St. Jerome follows with the admonition: ” Let no one ever sit at table without having prayed, and let him never leave it without having given thanks to the Creator.” St. John Chrysostom rebukes some of the Christians of his time in such forcible terms as these: “We must pray before and after meals.”

This custom was passed on to each generation so that we might not dig-in too quickly without forgetting who created this food and provided it for us. While humans certainly play a vital role in turning the fruits of the earth into edible food, God is the one who created it all, for our benefit.

It helps us remain humble and grateful for the blessings that we have, realizing that not everyone has such food on their table.

Let us never forget to pray before meals, but also consider praying after a meal, giving thanks to God for the food that now satisfies our hunger.


FAMILY PRAYING

Read more:
Why do we call prayers before meals “saying grace”?


3 SAINTS;ICON

Read more:
A Thanksgiving meal prayer from the 4th century

Tags:
PrayerSpiritual Life
Support Aleteia!

If you’re reading this article, it’s thanks to the generosity of people like you, who have made Aleteia possible.

Here are some numbers:

  • 20 million users around the world read Aleteia.org every month
  • Aleteia is published every day in seven languages: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Polish, and Slovenian
  • Each month, readers view more than 50 million pages
  • Nearly 4 million people follow Aleteia on social media
  • Each month, we publish 2,450 articles and around 40 videos
  • We have 60 full time staff and approximately 400 collaborators (writers, translators, photographers, etc.)

As you can imagine, these numbers represent a lot of work. We need you.

Support Aleteia with as little as $1. It only takes a minute. Thank you!

Daily prayer
And today we celebrate...




Top 10
1
ANMOL RODRIGUEZ
Domitille Farret d'Astiès
Attacked with acid as a baby, Anmol Rodriguez overcomes and inspi...
2
Our Lady of La Salette
Philip Kosloski
How Our Lady of La Salette can give us hope in darkness
3
OUR LADY
Philip Kosloski
An alternative Hail Mary to Our Lady of Sorrows
4
PRAY
Philip Kosloski
Pray this Psalm when you successfully recover from an illness
5
SLEEPING
Cecilia Pigg
7 Ways the saints can help you sleep better at night
6
RESURRECTION
Philip Kosloski
Your body is not a “shell” for your spirit
7
ORTHODOX COMMUNION
Philip Kosloski
Why do some Eastern Catholics use spoons for Holy Communion?
See More
Newsletter
Get Aleteia delivered to your inbox. Subscribe here.