I know that one of the most important jobs I have as a parent is to teach and train my children about matters of faith. This can sometimes seem like a daunting task. There are so many books we could read, songs we could sing, programs we could attend, and even Bible verses we could memorize. How is a parent supposed to know what to do?
Fortunately, I believe there is one tool available to us that is easy to do and is ready-made to fit right into our schedule. It is the family prayer, the simplest kind of prayer that can come before meals. And I don’t just mean the meals that we eat around our dining table. I mean the meals that we eat at the sit-down restaurant, at the playland at McDonald’s, in the park, in the car after we’ve gone through the drive-thru, and even on those white tables at Costco. Our children (yours and mine) should see every meal as an opportunity to give thanks and talk with their Creator.
A great memory from by college days was mealtime with my friends in the school cafeteria. The food wasn’t too bad, but the memories have more to do with hanging out with my friends. If you were a student there, you weren’t expected to join the conversation at the table until after you had bowed your head and said a quiet prayer before your meal. It was just the normal routine at our school. You sat down, you prayed, and then you started in on the food and fellowship. I really can’t think of a better way to begin a meal.
Now I know very well that there is no Biblical mandate for praying before every meal. It’s just a tradition that has developed over the centuries. But this tradition is worth keeping. And if it isn’t a tradition in your family or in your daily routine, think about starting it. If it’s a little intimidating or you’re not quite sure what to say, I’ll share what we say sometimes. This is the mealtime prayer that I grew up with and the one that we often say with our children. I consider it to be a part of my faith heritage and a big treasure in my life. It’s also the prayer that I would whisper under my breath as a college student in the cafeteria. It’s not too complicated, but it still says a lot about gratitude and our desire to live our lives for God. We call it the Robinson Family Prayer: “Father we thank you for this food, for friend and loved ones too. Help us to be kind and good in all we say and do. Amen.”
At other times before meals, we’ll pick a family member to pray on behalf of everyone else. This is how Brent’s family has always done it, at least ever since I’ve been a part of it. I like how it helps each child become comfortable with praying out loud. Talking with God should be something that happens daily for us and for our children.
I believe that praying before meals (every meal) can help us as parents train up our children in the faith. It’s easy to do and we don’t even have to make a plan for it. The opportunities just come along three times a day without any advanced preparation. And it’s a great habit to instill into our kids. There are some traditions that come and go, but I hope that this tradition continues. It’s a keeper!