Table Grace


     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

Chris Gehrz’s family table grace is the same one that my Grandfather Randolph taught his children and grandchildren, although Grandpa also “dissented  about the second line”, preferring “and may our daily food be blest.”
From the article:
So what’s so important about these fifteen words? How has it changed the church, and perhaps the world?
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….

I like the Common Table prayer for large gatherings because you CAN use it in unison, and have everyone, including small children, participate.

Two years later Veith recanted:

How presumptuous I was in questioning a devotion hallowed by untold numbers of Christians for generations!
Since then I have come to appreciate and to use that prayer.
And here is Gehrz on Veith’s theological defense of the prayer:
“Above all,” he concluded, “it is a prayer that focuses upon Christ’s presence–asking Him to come into our lives, into our vocations, into our family as everyone is seated around the table–and acknowledges Christ’s gifts, that the food we are about to eat comes from His hand and that ordinary life is the sphere of His blessings.” It is a table grace, after all, because it reminds us that we depend on God’s mercy in all realms of life. And the blessing of God is not necessarily the material wealth associated with another popular prayer, but the simple, sustaining mercies of food, drink, shelter, and the loving presence of other people.
I prefer “let these gifts to us be blest” because it portrays a deeper understanding of why we give thanks, but habit will most likely reign.  I have grown inconsistent in praying before meals and I want to change that.

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