This was the prayer I grew up saying before meals as a child. As we move toward Thanksgiving later this month, I thought about table graces and the tradition they represent for families.
I called my Mom and asked if this was the prayer she said as a child. She thought it was used by both her family and my Dad’s family when they were children. (They grew up in the same community).I’m the oldest of four children in my family. My mom said that we three girls got to saying the prayer so quickly that it lost its meaning. So when my brother – who is 10 years younger - came along and he started saying “Frall wheat, Frall wear, Frall everywhere and so on, we switched to:
God is good.
Let us thank Him.
For this food.
Many people seem to use this prayer or variations on it. Randy had grown up saying, "God is great," and I ended my childhood with it, so we used that prayer when Jill and Brent were little.
Even though the Thanksgiving holiday makes many of us think of early pilgrims, the idea of thanksgiving is actually rooted in ancient Judaism. The early pilgrims likely looked to the Bible to find means to give thanks to God for their survival. In it, they found the celebrated Feast of Tabernacles, also known as the Feast of Ingathering. The Israelites, having been delivered from the desert of Sinai, celebrated their harvest with this feast and is still the most joyous of all Jewish feasts today (Leviticus 23).
The idea of giving thanks is also prominent in the New Testament. 1 Thessalonians 5:18, says, “No matter what happens, always be thankful, for this is God's will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
All early celebrations had one common theme -- God. Thanksgiving was directed toward God, their Creator, Protector, and Provider. They believed that all good things ultimately came from Him as they do today.
A 1998 Gallup Poll showed that 64 percent of U.S. residents pray before eating meals, so prayers at dinner time haven’t become obsolete. Saying grace isn’t just for the times the good china comes out of the cupboard. Religious leaders agree that a prayer before dinner is just as appropriate over paper plates, fast food wrappers and those everyday dishes that are beginning to show their age.
People who otherwise aren’t used to saying grace are often more of a mind to count blessings - along with calories - on Thanksgiving Day.
Grace is the name for any of a number of short prayers said or an unvoiced intention held prior to eating a meal. In the English language tradition, reciting a prayer prior to eating is traditionally referred to as "saying grace".
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette did a story on table prayers and asked readers to submit prayers. Among the most popular ones submitted was: "God is great ..."
One family who responded to the Post-Gazette’s request added a different tradition after their “God is great” prayer was complete. In a tradition passed down by their grandmother, they squeeze each others' hands three times to signify "I love you.
Another popular response to the newspaper's survey was:
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest.
May this food to us be blessed.
In "Bless This Food: Ancient and Contemporary Graces from Around the World," author Adrian Butash wrote: "Food blessings provide a common thread - mankind's need to connect to the Almighty." He said that the older prayers have such power because they came from the heart. "Starvation was a real possibility, so people were truly grateful for food.”
This idea is often lost in modern American culture, but many families still use prayer time to teach children.
There are four principal types of thanksgiving grace: the silent grace, the spoken grace, the sung grace and the signed grace.
It was taken by Minnesota photographer Eric Enstrom. The bearded old man was Charles Wilden, a peddler who came to Enstrom's studio to sell foot scrapers. Enstrom placed a family Bible, spectacles, a bowl of gruel, a loaf of bread and a knife on the table and had Wilden pose in an attitude of prayer.
The photographer said:
"I wanted to take a picture that would show people that even though they had to do without many things because of the war, they still had much to be thankful for. This man doesn't have much of earthly goods, but he has more than most people because he has a thankful heart."
Isn't that a message we can all take to heart as we approach this Thanksgiving season! As you say grace around the family table this Thanksgiving, may your heart be filled with thanks for your many blessings.
I'd love to hear from YOU! What table graces did you say as a child? What table graces have you taught your own children or grandchildren? Send me a comment and share them with me and other readers.
I'm beginning to see fresh cranberries in the produce aisles of the grocery store these days. Try this yummy bar cookie recipe. It's a great snack to have on hand for Thanksgiving guests and will also make an attractive addition to any holiday cookie tray. Enjoy!
1 cup flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1/3 cup butter
1 cup finely-chopped pecans
1 1/4 cups sugar
2 tbsp. flour
2 beaten eggs
2 tbsp. milk
1 tbsp. finely-shredded orange peel
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped cranberries (I use food processor to chop)
1/2 cup coconut
In medium mixing bowl, combine 1 cup flour and 2 tablespoons sugar. With pastry cutter, cut butter into flour mixture until it resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/2 cup pecans. Press flour mixture into the bottom of a greased 13- by 9-inch pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine 1 1/4 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons flour. Stir in eggs, milk, orange peel and vanilla. Fold in cranberries, coconut and the remaining chopped pecans. Spread over partially baked crust. Bake 25 to 30 minutes or until the top is golden brown. Cool in pan on wire rack. Cut into bars while warm. Cool completely before removing from pan.
If you are having guests at your home this Thanksgiving, you might consider using the Prayer Mix I shared in February. You can decorate the bags with Thanksgiving stickers or use a business card template on your computer to make a Thanksgiving-themed card to attach to each bag. You could use them as place cards on your Thanksgiving table.