Praying. And thinking hard about it.
While speaking to an atheist friend of mine at work he asked me if I ever had a meal at the house of a mutual Christian friend. I said that I had not and he asked if it was because the Christian friend prayed before eating a meal. While the prayer before the meal thing is not necessarily the reason it certainly is a contributing reason. While at work, I strictly stay away from the subject of religion and I expect everybody else to do the same. In my private time, however, I will not shy away from expressing my opinion loudly, so I don’t actively pursue situations where my complete and utter lack of respect for religious beliefs will cause conflict.
The conversation got me thinking about the praying before a meal thing that Christians are so fond of doing. The more religious a person is the more pious and intense the meal time prayer is likely to be. I know this since I come from a family where at family gatherings, there most certainly was going to be a bit of pre-meal praying. One uncle in particular always delivered fantastic and pious oration, bless his racist soul.
The prayer always followed a reasonably similar script, regardless of which side of the family was gathering. By ‘which side’ I mean: the Methodist side, the Methodist side that included the Jehovah’s witnesses or the Dutch Reformed side. Considering the seemingly scripted nature of the pre-meal prayers, I suspect that, mostly, Christians don’t sit down and think about what it is that they are babbling. Here are some examples of the pre-meal prayer one might experience:
For what we are about to receive, may the lord make us truly thankful. Amen
That one is the most common in my experience. I think people uncomfortable with the public spectacle of the thing opt for this version to get it over quickly. The extended version might go more like this:
For what we are about to receive, may the lord make us truly thankful. And may we always be mindful of the needs of others, for Jesus sake, Amen.
I’ve heard this one a couple of times:
Dear Lord, bless this food to the nourishment of our bodies and us to thy service. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
I find this one quite interesting:
Bless us, O Lord, for these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty. Help us to be mindful of all our blessings, and the needs of those who have less. Amen.
On the surface I guess they seem sufficiently pious, nice even. Being thankful to your Lord Jesus for the food he’s given you to eat. Remember all the good things you have and remember those who don’t have as much. Isn’t that nice?
I have composed an altogether different prayer I would like to propose. I might even try to memorize it so that if the opportunity arose I’d be ready with a nice thought-provoking appeal to the almighty creator of the universe for everybody to ponder over while consuming a nice meal. It might go something like this:
For what we are about to receive dear Lord Jesus, make us truly thankful. To help us be truly thankful, please will you also open our minds so that we may understand why you have deemed us, who are able to afford to grow and purchase our own food, worthy of this bounty while allowing millions of children to starve to death every day. We are thankful, oh Lord, that you have deemed us worthy of living in a first world country which guarantees us food and shelter but to properly appreciate this oh Lord, open our minds to understand your plan that involves the mutilation and torture of millions of people, including children and babies, who are not deemed worthy of this bounty. Dear Lord, we are thankful for the first world medicine which is provided to us, essentially free of charge, through the toil of secular scientists, sometimes in the face of great adversity from your holy church and funded from taxes paid by those who are not of our faith and who do not believe you exist, but allow us to understand oh Lord, why millions are not deemed fit for this privilege and die horribly in the most disgusting ways imaginable even though they are far more religious than we are, obey your commandments with much more zeal and believe in you much more fervently. As we consume this bounty you have provided us who do not really need assistance oh Lord, help us to understand why so many little children who are unable to help themselves deserve to die of hunger, thirst and torture. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.
I can’t help but wonder why Jesus Christ, who allegedly provides food to (some) Christians, also provides food to Muslims, Hindus and Atheists among others while at the same time not providing food to literally millions of other Christians who are left to starve to death. Among them very many little ‘Christian’ Children.
How do you rationalise that? I guess you don’t. I guess you just ignore it. I guess you just put it down to God’s mysterious but good plan… that involves the most horrible deaths imaginable for millions of people.
Praying to a deity before a meal to thank him (funny how it’s always a ‘him’) for the food he demonstrably had no part in providing? Yes, I find it offensive.
Oh, and Christian, ye who would pray when thy knowest that in thy presence are those who do not believe, or, in fact, anybody at all, should probably have another look at thy Bible, lest thy eternal soul be damned or some such:
6:6 But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
6:7 But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
6:8 Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask him.