God is the giver of all good gifts (cf. James 1:17). If He didn’t provide for us, we wouldn’t have our “daily bread” (cf. Our Father; Matthew 6:9-13). Before meals, we should acknowledge His providence and ask Him to bless our food before we eat it. We can do this in our own words or use the traditional Prayer before Meals below.
So often meals are rushed, and we don’t take time to think about Our Lord and His bountiful gifts to us. Eating food is necessary for our body, but mealtimes are beneficial for our souls, too, as we think about God and thank Him for what we are eating. We can also remember and pray for those who made our meal possible–those who grew the food, those who sold us the food, those who prepared the meal. And we can pray for those who go hungry–both spiritually and physically.
The Lord Jesus Himself, true God and true Man, ate meals with others. Eating can be offered to God, as can all of our prayers, works, and sufferings (cf. Morning Offering). St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” We can glorify God with our most basic actions!
“Better is a dry morsel with quiet than a house full of feasting with strife” (Proverbs 17:1). We should try to cultivate a peaceful atmosphere at our table. The table is a place of fellowship with our family and friends, a time to rejoice in our blessings and encourage one another on our journey to Heaven.
Eating meals together as a family strengthens family relationships and gives the members an opportunity to reconnect with one another. Unfortunately, sometimes the hectic pace of today’s world, with everyone coming and going, has a negative effect on family relationships. Research has even shown that regular family meals can actually improve children’s long-term physical and mental health!
The family is the “domestic church” (cf. Lumen Gentium, 11), where children learn about Our Lord and His love, and how to live a holy life and reach Heaven. The dinner table is a place for giving and receiving love, and for informal conversation about Our Lord and the things of God. Praying before and after meals teaches children the importance of prayer throughout the day, not just in the morning and before bedtime.
After our meal, it is appropriate to thank God for what we have eaten—and for all His blessings which we receive all day long! There is a traditional Prayer After Meals for this purpose. Of course, we can also thank Him in our own words.
Praying before and after meals gives us opportunities to pause during our busy day and keep our focus on Jesus, who loves us more than we can imagine! And if we’re with others or in a public place, our pausing to pray a quiet prayer witnesses to others of the importance of loving and praying to Our Lord.
The Prayer before Meals and Prayer after Meals below are easily memorized, so you can pray them by heart.
Prayer before Meals
Bless us, O Lord, and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer after Meals
We give Thee thanks for all Thy benefits, O Almighty God, who livest and reignest forever; and may the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. Amen.