Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let Thy gifts to us be blessed. Amen.
I grew up with this daily mealtime prayer, and there’s one thing I particularly like about it.
In addition to the relational invitation to God, it focuses on the blessing of those gathered around.
This contrasts a bit with my later experience. As I mixed with people from a variety of denominational backgrounds, I began to hear more of an emphasis on praying to bless the food. I would hear phrases like, “Bless this food to our bodies,” accompanied by jokes of chastisement toward those who had taken a bite before the food had been blessed. Who knew what nasty things they ingested in their pre-blessed mouthfuls!
I also personally received some cheerful jeering from my peers as my mealtime custom was often to pray for everything but the food. Those that expected a consecration of the consumables poked at me that I forgot the main reason why we were praying: to bless the food.
Do I want to be healthy and avoid sickness as a result of eating? Sure, I do–especially with the kinds of places that I’ve traveled to! But that’s not my main concern. While nutrition is on the menu, I see a much more significant opportunity to express gratitude to God–as we realize our dependency upon Him for even the basic necessities of life–and also to ask for blessing on those who are gathered together to eat. God may bless them through food and sustenance, but I hope that He does even more in other ways as well!
Food is a secondary element, a physical gateway to a spiritual reality of thanksgiving toward God and the welfare of others. In this way, every meal can have a sacramental quality to it. Why put the food at the forefront? Why seek the blessing of the food when we can seek the blessing of the people who are eating the food?
Perhaps some hope that by blessing the food they might lower the caloric content, transmute the bad fats into good ones, or ensure that weight-gain will be warded off, but whatever words are spoken, let’s keep the people–and the Provider–at the focal point of our feasts. Bless the food if you like, but bless those who prepared it, those who partake of it, and give thanks to the One who produced it.