There is a common faith practice that we take little thought of. While there is some variation in this practice, I’ve rarely heard anyone argue or divide over the differences. It’s a simple thing, really, but over the thousands of years of Christian faith and practice, it remains virtually untouched, perhaps because it is a simple and unadorned habit.
Twice in Jesus’ ministry, He felt compassion for the crowd following Him and their need to eat. In recording the feeding of the 4000, Mark writes, “And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the people.” (Mark 8:6, NASB95) Did you see it? In a “blink and you’ll miss it moment” Jesus modeled the common faith practice by pausing and giving thanks to God for the food they were about to share. A little thing that means much.
In my humble opinion, that brief moment of giving thanks to God for the provision of a meal is just as meaningful to our walk with Jesus reading our Bibles, or going to church. It is a moment of remembering that God is our provider and sustainer. That little prayer is a momentary check on our attitude.
In a 1965 movie, Jimmy Stewart’s character, a Virginia farmer during the Civil War, offered this sarcastic prayer. “Lord, We cleared this land; We plowed it, sowed it, and harvested it. We cooked the harvest. It wouldn’t be here—we wouldn’t be eating it—if we hadn’t done it all ourselves. We worked dog-bone hard for every crumb and morsel. But we thank you just the same anyway, Lord, for this food we’re about to eat. Amen.” Everything Jimmy’s character said in his sarcastic prayer is true, especially for a sustenance farmer of that era. We could probably say, think, or feel something very similar.
I’ve always wanted to step into that scene and say – Yes, but what about the sunshine and the rain? Did you cause those too? Did you create the land your crops grew on? Did you teach the plants how to grow and mature and produce an abundance? By thanking God for our meal, we recognize His hand in our lives. We may have hard scrambled for every morsel, but the thanks always go back to God.
The power of this prayer is not in its length or breadth, or loudness. The power in is its consistent reminder that one way or another, everything, even the food on our table and the love we share, is because of God. I would also add this. Food is perhaps the common need in our life. But there are many other little things to be thankful for as well. Little things like a roof over our head, water to drink, air to breathe, a means of provision (either through employment or the grace of others), transportation (from shoes on our feet to gas in our cars), the social connections of family and friends, peace and stability of government (when we have it), sunshine, rain, growth, and harvest. Just taking the time to say thanks for the food on our table before we eat opens the door of thankfulness for all these little things as well.