Graces, Prayers, Blessings on the Meal

I’ve been recently thinking about how closely tied almost every culture is to both gratitude and peacefulness through food. This takes places through the practice of taking a pause before eating, whether to speak a grace or blessing aloud, or to quietly reflect and give thanks.

While I don’t consider myself religious in any sense of the word, I still find myself connecting with food in the humble, awestruck, grateful way that many religions suggest, and can recount several powerful moments in the not so distant past that stand out as good examples of this.

Last year, at a Toronto Food Policy Council event, I had the great experience of standing up among a large room full of people to make a toast to the farmers whose work provided our lunches and snacks.  It was such an incredible moment, and not an unfamiliar sentiment in the field I am working in, but to actually voice our thanks and raise a toast (knowing there were farmers among us in the room) was truly beautiful.  Cathleen Kneen also sang a grace I immediately loved, and quickly jotted down on the spot.  The words are:

Thank you for this food, this glorious food,
and the animals, and the vegetables, and minerals that make it possible.

Here it is, posted on my fridge:

The second set of words in this photo are a more representational capturing of Amabile Grace, a song we sang before many meals at choir camp years ago.  The words are:

For food in a world where many walk in hunger,
for peace in a world where many walk in fear,
for friends in a world where many walk alone,
we give you thanks, oh God.

At potluck suppers at our community farm, we very often join together to say a blessing on the meal before partaking, which goes something like this:

Blessings on the blossoms,
blessings on the fruit
blessings on the leaves and stems
blessings on the root
blessings on the meal.

And perhaps one of the most striking moments of gratitude in recent recollection was at a friend’s farm a few summers ago, when one person got up quietly and went outside to yell gracias toward the earth and sky before we all sat down to eat together.

What is your ritual of gratitude at meals?

Below is a compilation of prayers and graces which have been gathered by the folks at YES! Magazine in the U.S.  

LATIN AMERICAN
To those who have hunger
Give bread.
And to those who have bread
Give the hunger for justice.
BUDDHIST
This food is the gift
of the whole universe.
Each morsel is a sacrifice of life,
May I be worthy to receive it.
May the energy in this food
Give me the strength
To transform my unwholesome qualities
Into wholesome ones.
I am grateful for this food.
May I realize the Path of Awakening,
For the sake of all beings.
MUSLIM
All praises are due to Allah who gave us sufficient food to eat and who satiated our thirst while such food is needed by us all the time and while we are not ungrateful to Allah.
ASHANTI, GHANA
Earth, when I am about to die
I lean upon you.
Earth, while I am alive
I depend upon you.
SELKIRK GRACE, SCOTTISH
Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it.
But we hae meat, and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.
CHRISTIAN CHILDREN’S PRAYER
Thank you God for the world so sweet,
Thank you God for the food we eat.
Thank you God for the birds that sing,
Thank you God for everything.
APOSTOLIC, ARMENIA
The eyes of all wait upon Thee, O Lord,
And Thou givest them their food in due season.
Thou openest Thy hand and fillest all things
Living with plenteousness.
HINDU, INDIA
Before grasping this grain,
let us consider in our minds
the reasons why
we should care for and safeguard this body.
This is my prayer, oh God:
May I be forever devoted at your feet,
offering body, mind, and wealth
to the service of truth in the world.
COPTIC, EGYPT
Bless, O Lord, the plants, the vegetation,
and the herbs of the field,
that they may grow
and increase to fullness
and bear much fruit.
And may the fruit of the land
remind us of the spiritual fruit
we should bear.
MOTHER TERESA, CATHOLIC, CALCUTTA
Make us worthy, Lord,
To serve those people
Throughout the world who live and die
In poverty and hunger.
Give them, through our hands
This day their daily bread,
And by our understanding love,
Give peace and joy.
SIOUX, NATIVE AMERICAN
I’m an Indian.
I think about the common things like this pot.
The bubbling water comes from the rain cloud.
It represents the sky.
The fire comes from the sun,
Which warms us all, men, animals, trees.
The meat stands for the four-legged creatures,
Our animal brothers,
Who gave themselves so that we should live.
The steam is living breath.
It was water, now it goes up to the sky,
Becomes a cloud again.
These things are sacred.
Looking at that pot full of good soup,
I am thinking how, in this simple manner,
The Great Spirit takes care of me.
JEWISH
Praised are You, our God, Ruler of the universe, who in goodness, with grace, kindness, and mercy, feeds the entire world. He provides bread for all creatures, for His kindness is never-ending. And because of His magnificent greatness we have never wanted for food, nor will we ever want for food, to the end of time.For His great name, because He is God who feeds and provides for all, and who does good to all by preparing food for all of His creatures whom He created: Praised are You, God, who feeds all.

Sources:

VARIOUS ::
Compilation of graces by Azuka Nwigwe, Grail World Magazine
www.grailworld.com/GraceIndex.htm

ASHANTI, COPTIC, MOTHER TERESA ::
From the book “Bless This Food.” Copyright © 1993, 2007 by Adrian Butash. Reprinted with permission of New World Library, Novato, CA. www.newworldlibrary.com

HINDU ::
Translated by Linda Hess at Stanford University


Illustration by Nikki McClure. Research by Anna Stern. This article is part of Food for Everyone, the Spring 2009 issue of YES! Magazine. Anna Stern is an editorial intern for YES! Magazine. Photo of Anna Stern
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2 thoughts on “Graces, Prayers, Blessings on the Meal

  1. Thank you for compiling these. We use at least one (thank you…animals, vegetables, minerals) at least once a week and I think I will integrate at least part of the Buddhist one you included (might be a little long for the younger kids here).

    • Thanks Jim! I’m glad they were helpful. There’s a modified version of the 5 contemplations in the Plum Village tradition. It goes like this:
      Food contemplations for Young People
      This food is the gift of the whole universe: The earth, the sky, the rain, and the sun.
      We thank the people who have made this food, especially the farmers, the people at the market and the cooks.
      We only put on our plate as much food as we can eat.
      We want to chew the food slowly so that we can enjoy it.
      This food gives us energy to practice being more loving and understanding.
      We eat this food in order to be healthy and happy, and to love each other as a family.”
      The younger ones might appreciate that version! 🙂
      -Stephanie

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