Jan Havicksz. Steen,LEIDEN 1626 – 1679,THE PRAYER BEFORE THE MEAL
Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest
And let these gifts to us be blessed
First, it reminds us that Christian faith is not purely intellectual or other-worldly; it is incarnate, inseparable from the body’s physical needs.
Second, it reminds us that Christian faith is not individualistic; it is inseparable from our relationships, with Jesus and with his other followers. For me, this prayer especially drives home the realization that my faith is bound up with my family; it helps me remember that I know Jesus Christ not only by personal decision but because my parents and their parents and generations more knew him first.
May it be so with our children and their children as well! If Lutheran theologian Carl Braaten was right that Christianity is always “only a generation away from possible extinction” — meaning that it can’t be sustained in the form of buildings, books, or institutions, only through living faith passed on from one witness to another — then “Come, Lord Jesus” joins bedtime prayers and other seemingly simple liturgies in keeping alive a story that will be forgotten if it’s not shared.
In a 2009 Patheos post, another Lutheran scholar, Gene Veith, complained about the simplicity of this table grace: “It seems, well, childish, and, with its sing-song rhyme, more like a nursery rhyme.” But some of his readers insisted that it was important precisely because it was accessible to children:
It relates to everyone no matter how old or their religious background….
Two years later Veith recanted: