Why I Stopped Praying Before Eating

I tweeted a question last week asking people if they prayed before they ate and why.

The question spawned out of my past experience and a sense the tides were shifting. I can’t remember the last time I prayed before a meal (outside of a group). It’s been at least two years, if not more.

The main reasons I stopped praying before eating are:

  • It became too ritualistic.
  • It felt like I was repeating the same thing every time.
  • It lacked authenticity.

I know the Bible has examples of thanking God before a meal (Matthew 15:36, Acts 27:35), but I argued with myself thankfulness should be a lifestyle. That if I lived a life that was consistently thankful to God and His provision, two or three meal prayers a day wouldn’t be necessary.

If you know anything about me, you know I hate doing things just for the sake of doing them. So after awhile, it seemed stupid to keep praying before eating.

Until now.

I’ve had a change of heart thanks to some gentle reminders from some friends.

While it can become very ritualistic, it never hurts to thank the Lord for the food He has provided. ;) ~Brannen W.

You should not stop thanking God until you stop being thankful. ~Brad C.

It can be a witness to people around and shows you’re not embarrassed to pray in public. ~Terry T.

Stopping for a second to thank him for the food he provided is a good reminder to me that we didn’t earn all of the stuff we have … it all comes from him. ~Elizabeth H.

To me it goes back to all Jesus sacrificed for us. Can we not take a second before we eat all the bounty this Earth has provided, to thank Him for all He has done for us? ~Katie P.

Cause something seems like a routine doesn’t make it wrong or inappropriate … more so it can be a discipline to be reminded of His many gifts … it’s an opportunity to engage the heart when it feels like we’re mumbling words … ~Fola S.

My new reasons to prayer before a meal:

  • Why would we not take advantage of every opportunity to thank God?
  • If we truly acknowledge His role/provision in our lives, we should be thanking him way more than we do.
  • In public, it is a way to stand out and declare your faith in a subtle way.

As my friend Fola said, praying before meals is an opportunity to engage the heart when it seems routine.

So that is my new mindset.

Not to say a quick prayer before a meal (so I can get to the good part of eating), but to pause for a second and reflect on all that is good about God.

And then thank God for that (in addition to the yummy food I’m about to eat). ;)

Thoughts, comments? What are you most thankful to God for right now?

24 replies on “Why I Stopped Praying Before Eating”

Hi Alex,

I know that this is an older post of yours, but I just now found it. I searched for “praying before meals” because I have been lacking and doubting in my faith, and in my thankfulness. So I believe that I was led to your post.

I grew up in SE Alabama in So. Baptist and Methodist churches. My family (my adoptive parents and my two siblings and I) said a prayer regularly before meals, but we then stopped altogether when my adoptive parents stopped going to church and stopped making us kids go. My adoptive grandparents always said “Grace” before every family meal where we were all together. I do not know if they said it when we were not with them. But I got out of the “habit”. My husband’s family who is Catholic also doesn’t say Grace at every meal, though certain members do individually.

I agree that saying prayers before meals can become ritualistic. I think saying a “Good Morning” prayer and a “Bedtime” prayer can also be ritualistic. However, I also think that ritualistic prayer can lead us that struggle in our doubts/faith back to God. I want to pray so much that it just becomes my very nature…praying/talking to God without ceasing. It’s a very small “thing” I can do in my life to give God what belongs to Him…my everything! And, doesn’t the Bible say that prayer is really for our benefit more-so than God’s?

What if God led me to your blog post questioning this very thing that I was questioning myself? Maybe He was the one who put the question on my heart because the answer is Yes, I need to pray and give thanks to my Provider for the food/drink, the physical nourishment it provides for my body that can lead to also spiritual nourishment by me thanking Him?

I don’t know if we are required to bow our head, close our eyes, and pray (the way I was taught to pray as a child). Prayer is communicating with God. I think there is a time and place to bow our heads, close our eyes, and even kneel down in prayer. But, I also believe we can talk to God without ceasing by just continually acknowledging Him and talking to Him as we would a family member/friend. Because I think at the heart of it, prayer is about the relationship. It’s acknowledgment of our continual need for God as Sovereign in our lives, our dependency on Him alone. Anything more than that is just blessing. And I believe when I pray before meals to God that God is blessing me and blessing the food/drink going into my body. I am thanking Him for providing for my every need even when I don’t know what I need.

I read another article (it was Catholic) that also stated it’s good to pray after meals as well. I’m not Catholic, but I think there is truth to thanking God before and after meals, especially as we are called to pray without ceasing (a very hard thing for me to do). It requires me to be humble in spirit when I come before the Lord and I’m still learning that.

Much love and peace to you in Christ.

So one of the reasons to pray is cuz you want people to see you pray? That’s cool… ? We all think you’re better than us in the middle of burger king. Did you show off the impossible burger You got too so we know you’re super duper better than non praying non vegetarians too? Cuz you should.

Question Wife’s son is remarrying his first only wife again. After she betrayed him with drugs and alcohol also cheating while married. He say she has gone to rehab and been in jail. She is now a new born Christian etc…
I’m not happy but it is not my life. I am against all that she did. Specially the adultery part. Now she pray at dinner Wich I was not brought up too.. not against it but I feel I am and my wife are being forced to do something we just don’t ever do. We both have our prayers at home for each day. I feel I don’t need to drop to my knees every time somehing good happens. My one prayer each day of thanks should be fine. I do not trust her right now and just do not get my wife’s son why would he get back involved with her.
Wants to remarry her. His mother was cheated on from his father and I am her second husband of 21 years. Could some one help me be more at ease with all I have just mentioned . Thank you.

i imagine you want to encourage your daughter-in-law to pursue Christ to the best of her ability. if she wants to pray before meals, i think that’s something to celebrate and encourage her to keep doing (even if you don’t think it’s important).

better she prays than not, right?

while i understand trust was broken and it’s hard to trust again, i do know there are many cases in the Bible where God redeems people who have committed adultery.

ultimately, the fruit of her life will reveal the nature of her relationship with Christ. in the mean time, you can encourage her faith so that God continues to work in her life.

if she wants to pray during meals, that’s a great reminder and opportunity to pray for her!

This has been bothering me as well. I’m confused. I know we should be thankful for all our blessings. Is praying in public wrong because of Matthew 6:6?

In everything give thanks. Praying before we eat is a man made ritual. Nowhere is it commended in Scripture.

This is a great reminder of why I pray before I eat. Everyday at school I pray before I eat. When people see me, they know who I am. But anyways, this is a really great reminder and the quotes were really needed. When people look at me while I’m praying they think I’m an outsider. (I am btw). Thanks and God bless Alex.☺

i had actually drifted away from praying before meals again. thanks for your comment! it reminded me of this post. may be time to re-evaluate again.

There’s a lot of people in this world who don’t have ANYTHING to eat, that should stimulate people to give thanks to God for sparing them that great trial. I give God thanks partly because there’s been times food was much harder to get, and He takes time out of His busy schedule to look after my needs. Some people might have the attitude like TV character Archie Bunker who growled at his family at the dinner table and said, you guys oughta thank ME for that grub, I had to work for it. Even then God would deserve plenty of thanks. He gives people the strength and opportunity to earn the money for food and makes it grow out of the soil. He sends rain to refresh the crops. He even sends bees to pollenate the crops.

That’s a great reminder Patricia.

It goes back to why I started back up. God has done so many things for us that there’s _always_ something to be thankful for.

Thanks for sharing!

Allen, I am glad that you decided to begin praying again prior to meals. All of the disciplines of the spiritual life are meant to activate the realities of our inner lives whether that is bible study/meditation, prayer, tithing, solitude, fasting, christian conferencing, confession, service, etc.
We are exhorted to work out our faith; it is not enough to merely ‘feel’ thankful, it must be expressed. In reading the Psalms we see persons who did not feel contented simply ‘being’ thankful, they had to express it and they did so beautifully with an investment of the self.
Glad you decided to take something that had become a perfunctory ritual and have now made it an act of worship!


Yay, I get to be the one who stirs the pot! Someday, I wonder why I get this job. I suppose it’s part of God’s plan :) Anyways…here I GO!

I never pray before a meal (anymore). In my personal opinion, I think it’s very rude to do so. Why?

Imagine I invited you to dinner. I spend 30 second of that time praising you and thanking you for everything you’ve done and all the work you did. I then spend the next hour or two or even three completely ignoring you and talking about everything else in the planet. “Football, Soccer, How’s the baby?, Is life treating you well?, Want to go to the beach?, Is Jane having fun?” Sometimes the topic may go near you but I feel uncomfortable to talk about you so I try to steer it away and talk about something else. I mean, food is happy time and why bring up something that makes me feel uncomfortable! I completely ignore you and do my best to talk about something else.

Tell me, how would you feel after that? Someone spent 30 seconds praising and thanking you and then spending the next 3 hours ignoring you?

In a way, I think I would just prefer it if you ignored me for the entire 3hr and 30 sec or just never invited me rather than do what happened above – which is what I see in 99.99999% of all “prayer before meals”. There are exceptions but those are rare.

Ok, ok, let me rephrase that. I do pray but I don’t pray at the same time. My idea of praying to God before meals is equal to inviting him over for that meal. If your going to invite Him to a meal with you, at least have the guts to talk about Him during that meal otherwise, why in the world did you invite Him? At the very least, ask something like “Do you think this food is tasty? If you were physically here, would you like it?”

But I don’t believe God views those 30 second prayers in that way.

Let’s take a good friendship or marriage as an example. I think this is a great starting point since Christianity is about a relationship with Jesus.

I have some friends I rarely talk to, but will occasionally email or call. To these friends, my lack of communication the other times is not offensive or rude. They appreciate any type of communication.

And this is because there’s already a strong, established relationship there. There’s a mutual care and respect for each other that has been built up in other ways.

I believe God functions the same way.

If he knows your heart is seeking after Him overall, then these 30 second prayers are like getting a random encouraging text from a friend. God doesn’t need you to talk with him every second of every day to know that.

Similar to how a husband/wife don’t need to say “I love you” to each other all the time. Yes, it’s nice once in awhile (paralleling it to a 30 second meal prayer), but love is demonstrated in so many other ways.

It is rude, however, when those 30 second prayers are not meaningful, empty words and/or not from the heart. It is also rude if those are the only times you ever communicate with God.

The bottom line, keep your relationship with God healthy. ;)

There is one tiny little problem with this idea though – that is God is with you 24/7. As in, he’s in you heart and with your soul. Unlike sending a message to a friend far far away, he’s always with you. He see’s what you do after you send that message. Not only does he see you, he’s there!

Even sinners pray before every meal. Even Satan thanks God himself for allowing him to do what he does. Even the devils thank God for allowing them to continue existing.

In a way, I think the main premise for prayer before meals may be wrong. The question probably should be “What should I do next Lord?” That question is something can only be answered between you and God. If it happens to be “Glorify me before eating this meal” then…. who am I to question what He wants?

But make sure it’s truly what God wants and not only just what you want – otherwise what your doing is not really a prayer to God. It’s not even a prayer for thanks. It’s just something your doing for yourself and that itself is a big trap.

Remember, sometimes the answer isn’t “Glorify me before eating this meal” but “don’t eat” and if you say thanks for something you weren’t suppose to eat…… I really wouldn’t want to be you. Not all meals were meant to be eaten.

I sounded a bit strong in that last comment.

*sighs* Someday I wish I will have enough faith to act in the words I say. That day still seems far away.

God really is with us 24/7 though and we really should speak to him always. I think Paul sums it up as “Pray without ceasing”. Now whether we meet that ideal is another story.

I think it’s great how God sometimes causes us to question the things we do. It can lead to corrections in our life or drives us to research His Word for answers which always deepens our relationship with Him.
On a side note we in South Louisiana pray before meals to thank God and for Him to miraculously convert the molecular structure of our amazing tasting but not so healthy food into something that will “bless our bodies”. So we are believing for miracles when we eat crab cakes, crawfish, etc. : )

True that! Deepening our relationship with Him FTW!

And yeah, I can see how those in Louisiana would be wise to pray before their meals for that very reason. ;)

It’s a sign of maturity to consider the thoughts of others like you have. And I commend you for your introspection. I share your desire to see my motives clearly.

I don’t pray very often before meals. There is no question that it is ritualistic. I cringe at 9 out of 10 prayers before meals that I hear. It sounds like the person is speaking not to God but to the people present. And when I pray in public, I have to make a conscious effort to think about the fact that I am talking to God. Too often peoples prayers sound rehearsed, callous, even disrespectful to me. Every time I talk to God out loud, I feel audacious to be speaking to Him.

For every proof text in one direction, one can be found in another. For instance, Jesus said not to pray in public like the Pharisees. The attention they sought was their full reward.

I also don’t follow the logic of taking “every opportunity to thank God”. After all, every second is an opportunity to thank God.

I admire my late grandfathers example here. He would pray before family meals, but he would mumble softly. He didn’t care that we couldn’t understand him – he was talking to God. It was his way of avoiding becoming ritualistic, and avoiding praying to sound good to others instead of talking to God.

But I don’t even do that. I still struggle with the prayer before meals. And I don’t have time for the verbal shame some fellow Christians try on me when I won’t pray in fast food joints. It has not been my experience that the prayer in public creates opportunities to share my faith. Most people we’d like to reach avoid religious things, but everyone likes someone who is kind to them.

Nevertheless, lately I find that I very much enjoy thanking God through prayer for my friends when we have them over to my place. But I want to say the prayer as soon as everyone is there, even if we are eating later. So, like you, I’m growing. Even if it’s very slowly. :)

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I appreciate it Simon!

I also don’t follow the logic of taking “every opportunity to thank God”. After all, every second is an opportunity to thank God.

Every second is an opportunity (which goes back to thankfulness being a lifestyle). While I rationalized before about a lifestyle of thankfulness exempting me from praying before meals, the truth is thankfulness became a subconscious versus conscious decision.

Subconsciously/mentally I was thankful. But on any given day that wasn’t consciously expressed.

So taking “every opportunity to thank God” is more about being pro-active in the day-to-day opportunities to express thankfulness. If I’m living my life in order to glorify/honor God, then every other second will be covered. ;)

But at least I consciously expressed thankfulness to God each day.

It has not been my experience that the prayer in public creates opportunities to share my faith.

I agree. It’s never provided the opportunity for me. But for me, I think it’s still a great example. As Christians, we are set apart and it is a simple way of showing others where are priorities are.

We just got out of a series called Weird at my church which kind of goes along with that. Christians should be different than non-believers. Not for the sake of being different, but because God says we are new creations in Christ.

If we don’t look/act differently, then we are not representing Christ well.

And this is just peripheral, but I always feel a special bond with people I see praying before meals. Even though I don’t know the person, I feel a unity to the body of Christ.

But as you said, we’re all growing. This is what God’s been stirring in my heart. So one small step and meal prayer at a time. ;)

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