I find it easy to slip into vague gratefulness, and vague gratefulness is as hollow as a light bulb. Mostly I notice this at the dinner table with my family. The vague verbiage I speak over our food is a reflection of my vague thoughts about God and his provisions spread across the table. (It’s certainly not a reflection of my wife’s cooking!)
If you find this vaguity in your prayers, Douglas Wilson offers us a remedy in his new book Father Hunger. In a section on vocation, Wilson points us to look deeper into the gracious provisions from God:
We have to understand that all Christians are called, and are called to labor self-consciously and faithfully in their calling, whether it is law, real estate, carpentry, medicine, brick-laying, shop-keeping, writing novels or songs, digging latrines, or planting trees. All of God is in all of it.
We must fix it in our minds that God is in everything, and works through everything. This means that Christ is hidden in the artisan, and Christ is hidden in the customer. Christ is hidden in the one behind the counter, and He is hidden in the one in front of the counter. He is hidden in the dentist, and hidden in the patient in the chair.
God provides for us through means. We benefit from the work of the farmer, the fertilizer salesman, the trucker, the grocery store clerk, and the dairyman; and when we bow our heads to thank God for the breakfast cereal, we are thanking Him for His work in all of these people, whether they know Him or not. We receive from God through the work of others. We acknowledge this when we pray for our daily bread (Matthew 6:11). We know that God is working in and through all things (Romans 8:28), and this includes countless daily kindnesses. When we thank the Lord for the cereal, we should know that we are thanking Him for the whole supply chain, and not just for the full bowl in front of us.
Reading that quote changed my next dinner time prayer.
Instead of a vague prayer for the provisions, I gave thanks to the God who channeled his grace to us through a supply line of farmers who awake early in the morning to study the heavens and to crank cold tractor motors, through the factory workers with ID badges who wear gloves and goggles and package food every day, through the unshaven truckers who speed rigs across the country in a race against expiration dates, and through the grocery store stockers who organize and arrange all that food on shelves while most of us are asleep.
God wants you to enjoy breakfast, and he has ordained, called, and equipped certain specific men and women to make sure you do. Similarly, he has ordained and called and equipped us to return the favor to our neighbors. We all play different roles in the world, but we are knit together in God’s network of common grace.
But the point here is that the men and women in this supply line have all been ordained, called, equipped, and preserved by God because God knows your name, he knows your tastes, he loves you, and because he wants you to enjoy a bowl of breakfast cereal in his name.