While attending a Christian college to prepare for the ministry, one of my precious memories was that of several thousand students gathering for the evening meal, and collectively giving thanks to God. Giving thanks before eating is something we have practiced regularly since trusting in Christ for salvation. It has even been a testimony at restaurants where we occasionally have people thank us for this example.
When the Savior prepares to miraculously feed “five thousand men, beside [or in addition to] women and children” (Matthew 14:21), He first pauses to give thanks to the Father. Matthew 14:19 simply says, “and looking up to heaven, He blessed [meaning to thank or invoke a benediction], and break, and gave the loaves to his disciples.” John writes, “and when He had given thanks, He distributed to His disciples” (John 6:11). Surely the Lord’s purpose in providing this clear record is to enable us to realize that if even the Son of God stopped to give thanks before eating, we should also do so every time we are blessed of the Father to have something to eat.
Not only do we have this example from the Lord Jesus Christ, we have other Scripture that likewise teach the practice of giving thanks before eating. Romans 14:6 tells us, “He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks.” The point here is essentially that unbelievers do not give God thanks before eating because they are not acknowledging the Lord. But, believers are to give thanks before eating because they are to acknowledge the Lord as the true provider of their daily food. Similarly, we learn from I Timothy 4:3-4 that “God hath created [meats] to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth. For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.”
On the basis of these Scriptures, we encourage every believer to cultivate the practice of stopping to pray consistently before each meal. However, we urge you not to do so with mechanical memorized prayers, or as a mere ritual. Instead, speak to the Lord from a thankful heart, acknowledge Him as the real provider of the food, and give Him thanks for His generous provision.
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