There’s a rumor going around that the Hanks’ family doesn’t pray at mealtime. And I guess it’s partly true.
I don’t know about you, but my children are ravenous by dinner time. The goal of our journey is ENJOYABLE PRAYER. The Holy Spirit doesn’t push, prod, manipulate, or threaten gifts of praise from our lips. He draws them with His cords of lovingkindness. This has to be cultivated, and yes, there’s a time and a place for “prayer is what we do”. It is GOOD to give thanks to God, and as parents we are responsible for training our children up in the way they should go. I just don’t think it hurts if it’s fun.
God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7) and at mealtime, it takes every ounce of self-control for my children to not stuff their faces. (I realize a whole host of parents have the opposite problem – trying to GET their children to eat SOMETHING.) How can we face this time with gratitude and cheerfulness in a way in which prayer does not become something they dread and can’t wait to get through so that they can get to the “good stuff”- the food?
Well, in our home, we SING our mealtime prayers. We have a catchy little tune that we belt out at sometimes a bit too high of volume and rarely on key. We add our own stylistic flair. But our song-prayer accomplishes the purpose of thanking God and keeping this short prayer time ENJOYABLE.
In our home, mealtime prayer is only a very small fraction of our family prayer life. It is not the time for intercession. We have set apart times for that and we make space for spontaneous interruptions of it. When mealtime prayer is your household’s only time of prayer, you will find yourself quickly malnourished even if sitting at a bountiful dinner table.
Sometimes thanksgiving prayers can spring forth more organically at mealtime. If your child says, “This is good!” (Are you rolling your eyes? It could happen!) you can say, “It is, isn’t it. Jesus, thank You for blessing us with this great meal!”
We do highs and lows each night with each child going around and telling the best part of his day and the worst part. The lows make way for siblings and us to spontaneously intercede and the highs give space for thanksgiving to God. Prayer is a way of life; not something we memorize.
It doesn’t matter to me what mealtime prayers you say or how you cultivate that time. Do what works for you! I just wanted to interject a little bit of freedom to break away from norm if that serves your family well. The point is not drudging, dutiful service but cheerful giving to a glad God from an overflowing heart!