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How to Say Grace

Updated on January 24, 2013
BlossomSB profile image

Bronwen was a teacher for over forty years. Degrees include School Librarianship, Psycholinguistics and Theology, and Applied Linguistics.

Grace Before Meals

Sometimes when we Christians are visiting a friend's home, we may be asked, as the guest, to say Grace before a meal. We may say Grace before meals at home, and if we are Christians we really should, but we may be unsure of what is expected and wonder what we should say. Should we pray a set prayer, a Grace that we already know, or should we offer an extempore mealtime prayer?

If we are asked to pray before a meal, then an extempore prayer is what is required, but if we are asked to say Grace, then that is what we should do: say a Grace that we know and that would be suitable for the occasion. The term 'saying Grace' gives it away.

So what exactly is a Grace, how should we say it, and how did this tradition of saying Grace come about?

What is a Grace?

For Christians and Jews, a Grace is a brief prayer of thanks to God for the provision of our food. It is said either before or after a meal, and in some families it is said both before and after. However, there is more to it, so far as structure goes.

Linguists and people who study language would categorize Grace as being a speech event that is produced in formal language and that it is in a separate style or genre. It is especially distinctive in two ways:

  • A Grace is recited.
  • A Grace is structured in semantic couplets.

An example of a Grace that fits this description and is recited or sung in both families and more formal situations would be:

'Be present at our table, Lord,

Be here and everywhere adored;

These creatures bless and grant that we

May feast in Paradise with Thee.'

Note: There is a variety of final lines to this Grace, including

'May spend our lives in serving Thee.' 'May live in fellowship with Thee.'

How Do we Say Grace?

Grace is said in a number of different ways.

Family Grace: Grace is often said by one member of the family while they are all are sitting around the table; they bow their heads and close their eyes. One popular Grace is:

'Morning/ Noontime/ Evening is here, the board is spread,

Thanks be to God who gives us bread. Amen.'

A fun Grace that also has meaning:

'God who blessed the loaves and fishes

Bless this food upon our dishes,

And like the sugar in our tea

May we all be stirred by Thee. Amen'

When children are present the family may put their hands together in an attitude of prayer, or they may all hold hands around the table as they bow their heads and close their eyes. A children's grace that can be said or sung is:

'Thank you for the world so sweet,

Thank you for the food we eat,

Thank you for the birds that sing,

Thank you, God, for everything.' Amen.

Some families do not sit down until after Grace is said, but stand with heads bowed behind their chairs, with their hands on the back of the chair.

Wedding Grace: I wrote the following Grace after a visit to the Holy Land and it has been used at a number of weddings:

'Lord, who at Cana blessed the wine,

Bless this food before we dine,

Bless the two you've made as one,

And may we all have lots of fun!'

Sung Grace: In some families, Grace is sung. Members of the family may take turns to choose the Grace that is to be sung. Singing grace is popular in public meals, too, such as at church community meals, church camps, Girl Guides, Girl Scouts, CEBS and similar groups. There are even Graces that can be sung as Rounds and the part-singing can be a joyous thanksgiving. A popular one is 'Johnny Appleseed', and one that can be sung as a round is 'For Life and Health.'

Chanted Grace: In some religious communities Grace is chanted. It may be in plainsong style and in Latin or in the local language. It will still be comparatively brief, may be sung in parts and can be very beautiful.

Israel in the Time of Jesus
Israel in the Time of Jesus | Source

How Did Saying Grace Begin?

Saying Grace began so long ago that it is not known when it actually began, but it can be found in a number of different cultures.

  • The Ancient Romans and Others: The Romans gave us the word, Grace, when they used the Latin word, gratia, meaning 'gratitude.' The custom of saying Grace is not exclusively Christian. Well before Christian times the Romans thanked the gods for their food and wine; the Greeks praised Zeus. People of many religions thank their deities for their food, Buddhists recite an ancient thanks to Buddha and it is much longer than many of our graces.
  • The Old Testament: God's people of the Old Testament thanked God for their food. Over three thousand years ago, in 1 Samuel 9.13, we read that the people were not permitted to eat the sacrifice until it had been blessed.
  • The New Testament: The blessing of food is frequently mentioned in the New Testament. Food plays an prominent part in the Gospels: In Luke alone, food or sharing a meal is mentioned some nineteen times. Then there are the occasions when Jesus gave God thanks for the five loaves (John 6.11) and when He blessed the bread in the institution of the Lord' Supper (Matt. 26:26). We still use these words in our Holy Communion liturgy.
  • In later books of the New Testament, Paul took the bread and gave God thanks (Acts 27.35) and in his letters he instructed the people to give God thanks always for whatever they ate or drank (1Cor. 10.31). He also decreed that if food were offered to Christians, it should not be refused if it has first been made holy by prayer and thanksgiving (1 Tim. 4.4,5).
  • In Christian Times in Europe: Several hundred years ago, when schools and universities developed more formally in Europe and Britain, fixed forms of Grace were set for recitation, often for both before and after meals. These were most frequently said in Latin and are still used today in some colleges and universities.

So we find that to give thanks to God for our food, to say Grace, is a deep-seated, historical custom.

Saying Grace is Thanking God

Food is a necessity for sustaining life and it is important to thank God for His bounty and to ask Him to sanctify it for our bodies. We should never forget to thank Him for this blessing, nor should we skip saying Grace. Whether we are at home by ourselves or in a group in a restaurant, we should remember His love for us in the whole of our lives.

When we say Grace, we should be careful that we are not simply performing a ritual recitation, but that we really mean the words that we use.

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    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 4 years ago from Shelton

      well blossom thank you for this graceful share :)

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 4 years ago from southern USA

      Blossom this is such a lovely hub on saying Grace. It is so beautiful to me when we thank our Heavenly Father, as he has blessed us all so abundantly, whether we all realize it or not. This is a lovely way to start off my morning dear one. If a family takes the time to gather dailey at the dinner table and says grace, it brings them closer together and in unity with God. God bless you. May His grace fall upon you today and always! In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • lauramaryscott profile image

      lauramaryscott 4 years ago from Boise, Idaho

      BlossumSB, I agree with Faith Reaper, this is a lovely hub. Thanks for enlightening us with this info.

    • Robin profile image

      Robin Edmondson 4 years ago from San Francisco

      Saying grace and being thankful is so often forgotten. Thanks for writing this as a reminder. The preschool that our oldest went to said "grace" before each lunch. It was non-denominational, but was a way to give thanks. It was very sweet. It went: Thank you precious Earth for this beautiful food that will nourish our bodies and help us grow. Many people all over the world and all living things have good food to eat, a home to live in, and many reasons to be happy. Namaste.

      It was incredibly heartwarming to hear a class full of 2, 3, and 4 year olds recite it.

    • Jackie Lynnley profile image

      Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

      Beautiful instruction in prayer. I never heard of a cute poem before but if it instills important facts and makes us smile I am all for it. Thank you.

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Frank Atanacio: Bless you Frank.

      Faith Reaper: Thank you for your beautiful comments. Thinking of mornings: after my husband and I led a Church Camp, our children insisted on singing Grace and their morning choices were 'Morning has broken' and 'God has given us a new day'. Neither actually included thanks for the food, but both are lovely songs of praise. You are so right - I love the saying, 'The family that prays together stays together,' and if they learn to stay together with our Heavenly Father, that is really something for praise. Thank you for your lovely blessing, may God bless you this day, too.

      lauramaryscott: God bless you for your comments.

      Robin: How lovely! It is a heart-warming story, too. I have never heard that grace before, but it is a good one. God bless you and your family.

      Jackie Lynnley: Your comment came through while I was replying to the others, what a nice surprise! Yes. Something that is unexpected and makes us smile and yet still teaches us is memorable. Thank you for your comments.

    • profile image

      mours sshields 4 years ago from Elwood, Indiana

      Great hub about saying grace. I was always taught that Christians should say grace before meals wherever they may be.

      Marcia Ours

    • Tonipet profile image

      Tonette Fornillos 4 years ago from The City of Generals

      Hi Blossoms. What a lovely hub. I'd say extempore is best, it comes from the heart that could mean so much for the one being asked to pray. Saying grace before meals makes the sharing of food amazingly and joyfully gratifying. A family that prays together stays together. Thanks for this beautiful topic. I'm sharing this one.

    • profile image

      inway 4 years ago

      To be grace or not to be? It is question :)

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      mours sshields: So was I, but when I was in another, non-Christian country, in a restaurant I thought that probably I should just say it quietly by myself. However, the local Bishop had no such qualms, he stood up and pronounced Grace for all of us. Alleluia!

      Tonipet: Thank you and God bless you. Your comments are great.

      inway: It should be always 'to be.'

      God bless you all for your lovely comments.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing on the saying of Grace. It is a practice that will enrich lives as they say it over their meals. I love your prayer posts and your Biblical background of this truthful concept. God bless you.

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      teaches12345: Thank you for your lovely comments. I agree that it's important to say Grace and thank God for our food. God bless you, too.

    • thost profile image

      thost 4 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Thank you BlossomSB for this lovely Hub. I will vote up.

    • stars439 profile image

      stars439 4 years ago from Louisiana, The Magnolia and Pelican State.

      Dear heart, thank you for the knowledge in reference to saying the Grace. You have many lovely samples of the Grace to be enjoyed.

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      thost: I'm glad you enjoyed reading it. Thank you for the vote. God bless.

      stars439: Bless you and yours. The history is so interesting and it's so important that we carry on the tradition and thank our Father who gives us our food and all things.

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 4 years ago from California

      What a great hub!

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      AudreyHowitt: Thank you for reading it!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 4 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      What a lovely and informative Hub! Being thankful and expressing it to the Father is important and really just good manners. Thank you for the different ways to say Grace. This would be a wonderful tutorial for children to learn what and how Grace is and its importance.

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      Hyphenbird: It is important and, as you write, good manners, too. We have so much to be thankful for. I hadn't thought of it being for children, but I guess that's what comes of having been a teacher for most of my life, it just happens that way!

    • LadyFiddler profile image

      Joanna Chandler 4 years ago from On planet Earth

      Hey i love the graces you have shared with us, especially the one for the wedding it made me SMILE :). I only know the one with thank you Lord for the birds that sing, thank you Lord for everything........and of course the ones i say on my own.

      Thanks this was fun

      God bless you

      Shalom

    • BlossomSB profile image
      Author

      Bronwen Scott-Branagan 4 years ago from Victoria, Australia

      LadyFiddler: Thank you, especially for the smile! Jesus had a sense of humour and it's a blessing when we are able to show ours on a happy occasion. I'm glad you enjoyed it and may God bless you, too.

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