We met at a fast food restaurant for a quick meal before heading to a meeting. Dinner in hand, we found an empty booth and slid into the high backed seats on either side of the freshly wiped table. Engrossed in my meal, I took no notice of the people coming and going around me. But suddenly a little girl's voice from the table just behind me pierced my consciousness.
“Mommy, we forgot to pray.”
I smiled at the preciousness of the comment expressed in such little-girl innocence. Quickly the mother had her correct their mistake, and they went on with their meal. But her words come back to me often now, usually midway through the first bite of any food set before me. Sadly, sometimes it's not till I'm sitting back in my chair, hunger satisfied, that I realize that once again I've left something undone. I hang my head in shame and whisper what He already knows too well, “God, I forgot to pray.”
Fast-food restaurants require that a meal be paid for before it is handed over the counter or through the window to the customer. God doesn't require payment (everything we have has been bought by His Son). Prayer then is a gift made by choice, an offering of thanksgiving, a remembrance that every good and perfect gift – including the food on my plate – comes from above (James 1:17).
Perhaps the practice was established at the Last Supper, when in His last meal with His disciples, Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it and then talked to them about it's importance. Identifying the bread as His Body and the cup of wine as His Blood, His followers were to think about His death every time they partook of the same.
Some think the verses above apply just when “taking communion” as a part of a church gathering or individually, a time set aside in a service or in a personal devotional time to deliberately think about Jesus' death on the cross and partake of emblems of bread and wine in remembrance of His sacrifice. And yet He desires so much more than that. He wants to be part of our every thought and action, at any and every moment of the day. At the very least, then, our mealtimes should begin with thanksgiving. The gifts that fall from His hands to us, however, cover so much more than just the food we eat. Surely the physical evidence of answered prayer that fills our days should provoke the same response; the husband healed of cancer, the relationships restored, the broken things in me made whole. Our days are so filled with His goodness that our thanksgiving should be as regular as breathing His love and faithfulness in and voicing our gratitude out, all day long. Quite simply, that is what prayer becomes.
I catch myself more often now when I'm about to sneak a bite of a meal or taste a spilled portion before I've given thanks for the whole...not because I am bound by rules, but rather because I have been set free of them to serve a bigger purpose than merely satisfying my fleshly desires. Because of the sacrifice on the cross, I have the privilege of bringing the Bread of Life into every situation I face each day, and I pray before I eat simply because I need the reminder to thank Him for being the Answer I seek before I lay my questions at His feet.
We don't know what we'll find on our plate as we head into each day, but before we dive into it we can be sure we approach it the proper way. Even the hard things are easier to swallow if we trust God enough to thank Him in advance for working all things out for our good. Similarly the words that fall from His lips in response to our requests are not always the ones we want to hear. But they are easier to bear when we know that He hears our prayers, cares about our heartaches, and will make all things right in the end.
May I never again come to the end of the day and hear God say, “Daughter, you forgot to pray.”
“I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
(Luke 18:17 NIV)