Pray Something Big Before You Eat

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Staff writer, desiringGod.org

What do we pray before we eat together as a family?

Our familiar chorus, for as long as I can remember, was this simple prayer: God is good, God is great, and we thank him for this food. It wasn’t our only mealtime prayer, just the one my parents taught us when we were small in size and vocabulary.

A child (or an adult) really can do well growing a heart into those first six words. All of life hangs on the greatness of God. He is great beyond our wildest imaginations — big, sovereign, all-knowing, unstoppable. And he is thoroughly and unwaveringly good — never sinning, never doing wrong, always acting for those who love him.

“Good” and “great” say a lot, and yet after a while, not nearly enough. They are accurate claims, but without more specific examples, the praise can begin to feel plastic. So, when Mom or Dad prayed over our dinner, they often reached for different language — words, phrases, and realities that made “good” and “great” mean something for us.

Four Prayers for Mealtime

Any meal is a miracle worth celebrating, but again, after a while, it may not feel like a miracle anymore — someone bought the groceries with money again, someone prepared the food again, and here we are eating essentially the same meal again.

It doesn’t seem like a miracle, unless we see it in the light of many other miracles God is doing all the time. Unless we see the same God who put mashed potatoes on our plate also formed the mountains, the same God who brought these vegetables from seed to harvest to table also governs the stars, the same God who supplies us with what we need for each day also feeds every bird and squirrel and fish.

Psalm 104 models that kind of praying, connecting the dots between the simplest things in life, like our daily food, and the most enormous and complicated, like weather patterns, food chains, and galaxies — and connecting them all with God. When you pause to pray before a meal, pray something big.

1. Compare God to the biggest things in the universe.

  • God, you stretched out the heavens like a tent (Psalm 104:2).
  • You make the clouds your chariot (Psalm 104:3).
  • You put the mountains in their place (Psalm 104:5).
  • You poured the oceans, and drew its shoreline (Psalm 104:6, 9).
  • You dug out every valley (Psalm 104:8).

There are a dozen or so big ones — heavens, oceans, mountains, forests — but a thousand more things bigger than you to choose from — volcanos, beaches, caves, rivers. Choose one, and try to be unpredictable. Hop on National Geographic quick for inspiration, if you need it. Your family’s faith will be bigger, and your hearts fuller, for getting another glimpse of God’s glory in his world.

2. Look at how God provides for the smallest living things.

  • God, you make sure every animal has the water it needs (Psalm 104:10–11).
  • You build homes for the birds in the branches of your trees (Psalm 104:12, 17).
  • You cause the grass to grow, every blade, as food for the livestock (Psalm 104:14).
  • You water your worldwide garden of the tallest trees and the smallest flowers (Psalm 104:16).
  • You build a high place for the goats, and hide the badgers in safety (Psalm 104:18).

God not only feeds your family of seven, but in remarkable ways the world’s family of seven billion, and beyond that, innumerable plants and creatures, large and small. “The young lions roar for their prey, seeking their food from God” (Psalm 104:21). The birds, badgers, and lions know where they get their food. “These all look to you, to give them their food in due season” (Psalm 104:27). Why do we so easily forget?

3. Revel in the mundane and miraculous rhythms of life.

  • God, you made the moon to mark our seasons (Psalm 104:19).
  • You decide when the sun will set each day, when darkness will fall again (Psalm 104:19–20).
  • And you lift the sun back to its place, driving the darkness away (Psalm 104:22).
  • You alone define and number our days, weigh out our weeks, and measure our months.

We let far too many days pass without noticing the wonder of a day — a planet perfectly positioned in a limitless sky, at a precise distance from the sun, rotating and spinning at just the right speed. We take the rhythm for granted and, in doing so, miss remarkable vistas of God’s sovereign creativity and care. Before you take another bite or another sip, take a step back and ask again: How does he do it?

4. Eat and drink to the glory of God.

Paul makes it wonderfully clear: Once we are Christ’s, absolutely everything in the Christian life is meant to be worship, even our meals. “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31).

Genuine worship sounds like this: “I will sing to the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praise to my God while I have being. May my meditation be pleasing to him, for I rejoice in the Lord” (Psalms 104:33–34). Rehearse who God is and what he has done, and then respond to him — rejoice in him again together.

As you praise God for forming mountains, and feeding tropical fish, and conducting the sun, spend even more time admiring Jesus. The mountains were made through him (John 1:3). Every ounce of food points to him, as the true bread of life (John 6:35). Our galaxy may revolve around the sun, but all of history and the entire universe revolve around the God-man (Ephesians 1:10; Hebrews 1:2–3). And, of course, he is our only way to God, our only source of truth, and our only hope for real life and lasting joy (John 14:6; Psalm 16:11).

Make every meal a fresh call to worship King Jesus (Philippians 2:9–11).

Maybe you don’t eat together as a family, at least not often. Psalm 104 could be a fresh reason to try again. Every time we surrender and go our separate ways at supper time, we sacrifice an opportunity to rehearse together the most important things in the world. God may mean for supper to be your Sunday morning of each day — a time to break bread and marvel at a God who is truly both good and great.