is a name for any of a number of short prayer
Prayer is a form of religious practice that seeks to activate a volitional rapport to a deity through deliberate practice. Prayer may be either individual or communal and take place in public or in private. It may involve the use of words or song. When language is used, prayer may take the form of...
s said or an unvoiced intention held prior to or after eating, thanking God
God is the English name given to a singular being in theistic and deistic religions who is either the sole deity in monotheism, or a single deity in polytheism....
and/or the entities that have given of themselves to furnish nutrients to those partaking in the meal. Some traditions hold that grace and thanksgiving imparts a blessing which sanctifies the meal. In the English language tradition, reciting a prayer prior to eating is traditionally referred to as "saying grace".
A prayer of Grace is said to be an act of offering thanks to God for granting humans dominion over the earth, and the right and ability to sacrifice the lives of divine creations for sustenance; this thanks is the "saying of Grace" prior to and/or after eating of any meal.
However, in many indigenous cultures around the world, including North America, the saying of grace does not signify human dominion, but rather recognition of a plant or animal's giving their life and that some day the prayer giver, like every sentient being, will return to earth to give sustenance and life to others.
If one is not religious and the rest of the table is saying grace, it is considered polite and culturally appropriate to observe silently, or to bow one's head. It is often considered impolite or incorrect to start eating before grace has been said and completed.
The saying of grace may have entered into English language Judeo-Christian cultures with the Jewish
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...
mealtime prayer Birkat Hamazon
Birkat Hamazon or Birkath Hammazon, , known in English as the Grace After Meals, , is a set of Hebrew blessings that Jewish Law prescribes following a meal that includes bread or matzoh made from one or all of wheat, barley, rye, oats, spelt...
, though any number of cultures may have informed the practice, or it may have arisen spontaneously by individuals and then perpetuated by family traditions and social institutions.
Transignification is an idea originating from the attempts of modernist Roman Catholic theologians, especially Edward Schillebeeckx, to better understand the mystery of the Real Presence of Christ at Mass in light of a new philosophy of the nature of reality that is more in line with contemporary...
In Roman Catholic theology, transubstantiation means the change, in the Eucharist, of the substance of wheat bread and grape wine into the substance of the Body and Blood, respectively, of Jesus, while all that is accessible to the senses remains as before.The Eastern Orthodox...
, and agape feast
The term Agape or Love feast was used of certain religious meals among early Christians that seem originally to have been closely related to the Eucharist...
s may have informed the practice of grace.
The American tradition of Thanksgiving
In American Christianity, either the head of the household or an honored guest often ad libs a special grace on Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving Day is a holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada. Thanksgiving is celebrated each year on the second Monday of October in Canada and on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States. In Canada, Thanksgiving falls on the same day as Columbus Day in the...
Christmas or Christmas Day is an annual holiday generally celebrated on December 25 by billions of people around the world. It is a Christian feast that commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ, liturgically closing the Advent season and initiating the season of Christmastide, which lasts twelve days...
, and Easter
Easter is the central feast in the Christian liturgical year. According to the Canonical gospels, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. His resurrection is celebrated on Easter Day or Easter Sunday...
, while the others observe a moment of silence
A moment of silence is the expression for a period of silent contemplation, prayer, reflection, or meditation. Similar to flying a flag at half-mast, a moment of silence is often a gesture of respect, particularly in mourning for those who have recently died or as part of a commemoration ceremony...
. In some households it is customary for all at the table to hold hands during the grace.
Typical Christian grace prayers
- Ecumenical. God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen.
- Catholic. (before eating) Let us pray. Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy/Your gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy/Your bounty. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen. (Preceded and followed by the Sign of the Cross.)
- Catholic. (after eating) We give Thee/You thanks, Almighty God, for all Thy benefits, and for the poor souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, may they rest in peace. Amen. (Preceded and followed by the Sign of the Cross.)
- Eastern Orthodox. O Christ God, bless the food and drink of Thy servants, for holy art Thou, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. The one saying the prayer may make the Sign of the Cross
The Sign of the Cross , or crossing oneself, is a ritual hand motion made by members of many branches of Christianity, often accompanied by spoken or mental recitation of a trinitarian formula....
over the food with his right hand. After the meal, all stand and sing: We thank Thee, O Christ our God, that Thou hast satisfied us with Thine earthly gifts; deprive us not of Thy Heavenly Kingdom, but as Thou camest among Thy disciples, O Saviour, and gavest them peace, come unto us and save us. There are also seasonal hymns which are sung during the various Great Feasts. At Easter, it is customary to sing the Paschal troparion
The Paschal troparion or Christos anesti is the characteristic hymn for the celebration of Pascha in the Eastern Orthodox Church and those Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite....
- Anglican. Bless, O Father, Thy gifts to our use and us to Thy service; for Christ’s sake. Amen.
- Lutheran. (before eating) Come, Lord Jesus, be our Guest, and let Thy/these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.
- Lutheran. (after eating) O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good, for His mercy endureth/endures forever. Amen.
- Wesleyan. Be present at our table Lord. Be here and everywhere adored. These mercies bless and grant that we, may feast in fellowship with Thee. Amen
- Scots (The Selkirk Grace). 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.
- Australian (any denomination). Come Lord Jesus, be our Guest, let this food of ours be blessed. Amen.
- Common in UK religious schools.* For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful. Amen.
- Used at some YMCA
The Young Men's Christian Association is a worldwide organization of more than 45 million members from 125 national federations affiliated through the World Alliance of YMCAs...
summer camps. Our Father, for this day, for our friends, for this food, we thank Thee. Amen.
Note: Many Christian households or institutions (e.g. schools) ad lib grace at every meal, and it is not uncommon for events from the day to be mentioned in the prayer.
- The typical grace offered in UK religious schools is commonly used in Protestant boarding schools throughout Australia.
With the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem
The Temple in Jerusalem or Holy Temple , refers to one of a series of structures which were historically located on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem, the current site of the Dome of the Rock. Historically, these successive temples stood at this location and functioned as the centre of...
Year 70 was a common year starting on Monday of the Julian calendar. At the time, it was known as the Year of the Consulship of Augustus and Vespasianus...
CE, the offering of the prescribed sacrifices ceased in Judaism
Judaism ) is the "religion, philosophy, and way of life" of the Jewish people...
. Thereafter, the Rabbi
In Judaism, a rabbi is a teacher of Torah. This title derives from the Hebrew word רבי , meaning "My Master" , which is the way a student would address a master of Torah...
s prescribed the substitution of other ritual actions to fill this void in Jewish obedience to the Torah
Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five books of the bible—Genesis , Exodus , Leviticus , Numbers and Deuteronomy Torah- A scroll containing the first five books of the BibleThe Torah , is name given by Jews to the first five...
. The ritural washing of hands and eating of salted bread is considered to be a substitute for the sacrificial offerings of the kohen
A Kohen is the Hebrew word for priest. Jewish Kohens are traditionally believed and halachically required to be of direct patrilineal descent from the Biblical Aaron....
im (Jewish priests).
Though there are separate blessings for fruit, vegetables, non-bread grain products, and meat, fish, and dairy products, a meal is not considered to be a meal in the formal sense unless bread is eaten. The duty of saying grace after the meal is derived from : "And thou shalt eat and be satisfied and shalt bless the Lord thy God for the goodly land which he has given thee." Verse 8 of the same chapter says: "The land of wheat and barley, of the vine, the fig and the pomegranate, the land of the oil olive and of [date] syrup." Hence only bread made of wheat (which embraces spelt) or of barley (which for this purpose includes rye and oats) is deemed worthy of the blessing commanded in verse 10.
After the meal, a series of four (originally three) benedictions are said, or a single benediction if bread was not eaten
In Islam the concept of grace stems from the fact that each of us is responsible for our fate. Even though collectively we may come as one during congregation, we must remember that we came into this world alone and we shall leave it alone. Hence Muslims individually say Bismillah ar-Rahman, ar-Raheem before beginning a meal.
At the end the Muslims say "Al humdu lil Allahil lazi at'amanaa wasaqaana waja'alana minal muslimeen", translated as "Thank you, oh Allah for feeding us and making us amongst the believers"
The Baha'i Faith has these two prayers:
"He is God! Thou seest us, O my God, gathered around this table, praising Thy bounty, with our gaze set upon Thy Kingdom. O Lord! Send down upon us Thy heavenly food and confer upon us Thy blessing. Thou art verily the Bestower, the Merciful, the Compassionate."
"He is God! How can we render Thee thanks, O Lord? Thy bounties are endless and our gratitude cannot equal them. How can the finite utter praise of the Infinite? Unable are we to voice our thanks for Thy favors and in utter powerlessness we turn wholly to Thy Kingdom beseeching the increase of Thy bestowals and bounties. Thou art the Giver, the Bestower, the Almighty."
Hindus use the 24th verse of the 4th chapter of Bhagavad Gita
The ' , also more simply known as Gita, is a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the ancient Sanskrit epic, the Mahabharata, but is frequently treated as a freestanding text, and in particular, as an Upanishad in its own right, one of the several books that constitute general Vedic tradition...
as the traditional prayer or blessing before a meal. Once the food is blessed it becomes Prasad
Prasād is a mental condition of generosity, as well as a material substance that is first offered to a deity and then consumed...
, or sanctified as holy
Brahmaarpanam Brahma Havir
Brahmaagnau Brahmanaa Hutam
Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam
Brahma Karma Samaadhinaha
Which translates as 'The act of offering is God (Brahma), the oblation is God, By God it is offered into the fire of God, God is That which is to be attained by him who sees God in all.'
Sometimes, the 14th verse from the 15th chapter of Bhagavad Gita is used:
Aham Vaishvaanaro Bhutva
Praanaapaana Samaa Yuktaha
Pachaamyannam Chatur Vidam
This translates as 'Becoming the life-fire in the bodies of living beings, mingling with the upward and downward breaths, I digest the four kinds of food.'
Other pre-meal sayings
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...
it is customary to put one's hands together and say "Itadakimasu" ("I humbly receive") before a meal.
Humanism is an approach in study, philosophy, world view or practice that focuses on human values and concerns. In philosophy and social science, humanism is a perspective which affirms some notion of human nature, and is contrasted with anti-humanism....
and secular gatherings, someone may give thanks to all the people responsible for them being together and having food.
In households where religion is not taken seriously, children may say a parody
A parody , in current usage, is an imitative work created to mock, comment on, or trivialise an original work, its subject, author, style, or some other target, by means of humorous, satiric or ironic imitation...
of grace: "Two, four, six, eight, bog in, don't wait. Nine, ten, amen."