Praying before meals may seem like a non-issue because it is a discussion that doesn't seem all that prevalent in Christian circles. I can't think of any books dedicated to the subject, I haven't heard any sermons about it, and I'm not aware of any SBC conferences devoted to mending the rift between those in favor of mealtime invocation and those against. (I don't even want to get into the whole pre-meal/post-meal/a-meal debate.)
This is something I have been thinking a lot about lately. When should Christians pray before meals? While there are numerous passages in scripture that call us to "give thanks," there isn't a single command telling us that this must occur before meals. The closest we have to a command are the examples of Christ saying a blessing or giving thanks when he fed the 5,000 (Matther 14:19), when he fed the 4,000 (Matthew 15:36), and when he broke bread with the disciples in the upper room (Matthew 26:27).
I realize that as Christians we should live our lives in constant gratitude to the One who sustains us by his grace. But how does that translate into coming up with a "special" prayer for meals? How should we pray? Should we limit our prayer to what we are about to consume? Should we always pray before eating? Are there any settings in which prayer would be inappropriate? Does it depend on whether or not the one hosting the meal is a Christian? What if we're in the company of non-believers? Do we take into consideration the ratio of Christians to non-Christians gathered at the table? What if I'm the only Christian at the table? Is it a cultural thing? Do Christians the world over pray before they eat? And should the prayer always come before eating? What if the meal was prepared by a really bad cook? These may seem like silly questions, but you know you've asked them all at one point in your life.
I realize that some of you are probably thinking, "Of course we should pray when we eat. It isn't even up for debate." Well, ask yourself why you don't pray when you go out for ice cream. Does it depend on the quantity of food you are about to consume? (And yes, I've seen that tactic employed.) Or is it only required at designated mealtimes?
Some of you may not think it's a big deal at all. If that's the case, then what example are you setting for your children if you sometimes feel like praying before you eat and sometimes you don't?
This issue may not be as important as the debate over the doctrines of grace or the importance of sound biblical preaching in our churches. But I am curious to know your thoughts on the matter. So, what do you think?