Although I don’t pray nearly as often as I should, I remember my grandfather’s prayer before meals. I think these words will always be with me.
Dear heavenly father,
We thank you for our lives, for this food,
And for our many blessings.
Be with us during this meal,
And be with all of our loved ones.
I found these prayers on canvas, that I think are a nice touch in a home like ours where the prayers are in our hearts, but not always said aloud. (Okay, and I admit the Jesus and germs one is not a prayer, but it’s cute and I want it in our bathroom.)
I received this book the other day, Bless This Food: Ancient & Contemporary Graces from Around the World, which is filled with just that – beautiful family prayers and blessings rich in tradition from various cultures.
And while I’m not even going to think about Thanksgiving yet, fall is just around the corner and it’s a season that has a way of bringing families closer together and around the table for the comforts of a home cooked meal. So, although it’s 110 degrees here in Arizona and it’s hard to see the end of summer in sight, I’ll say one of these prayers tonight to wish the speedy return of nice weather when we can sleep with our windows open and go for long walks without being drenched in sweat in the first quarter mile.
“The occasional gathering for prayer, no matter how brief, keeps the heart and mind in touch with the most fundamental of joys: belonging,” says Bless This Food author, Adrian Butash. He selected prayers and blessings from all over the world, and from various religions and traditions, along with the work of great poets, thinkers and activists: Shakespeare, Milton, Gandhi and Mother Teresa, to name a few. Below is a sampling of some of these works:
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.
-Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)
As though has set the moon in the sky
to be the poor man’s lantern,
so let thy Light shine in my dark life
and lighten my path;
as the rice is sown in the water
and brings forth grain in great abundance,
so let thy word be sown in our midst
that the harvest may be great;
and as the banyan sends forth its branches
to take root in the soil,
so let thy Life take root in our lives.
First, let us reflect on our own work
and the effort of those who brought us this food.
Secondly, let us be aware of the quality of our deeds
as we receive this meal.
Thirdly, what is most essential
is the practice of mindfulness
which helps us transcend greed, anger, and delusion.
Fourthly, we appreciate this food
which sustains the good health of our body and mind.
Fifthly, in order to continue our practice for all beings,
we accept this offering.
-Zen Buddhist Prayer
The sacred blue corn seed that I am planting,
In one night it will grow and flourish,
In one night the corn increases,
In the garden of the House of God.
The sacred white corn seed I am planting,
In one day it will grow and ripen
In one day the corn increases
In its beauty it increases.
-Navajo Indian Prayer
Excerpted from the book Bless this Food: Ancient & Contemporary Graces from Around the World © 2013 Adrian Butash. Printed with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com