November 27, 2015

Prayer Before Meals

With the holiday season beginning, I can’t help but let my thoughts fall to the age-old family tradition of praying before we eat. Growing up in a Christian family, every meal was preceded with a prayer. Although I am no longer Christian, this one has really stuck with me. Why, of all things, do I still pray before meals? I do it because I believe it's important, regardless of religion.

Thinking About Food
Our lives are very, very busy, and so we often don't even think about the food that we're eating. Not only are we always rushing about, but we are also removed from the process of acquiring the food we eat. This leads to us not giving thought to where it comes from and to exactly what sacrifices had to be made for it to become our meals. How many plants and animals died to put food on your plate? There were those killed for the actual food, those killed in the process of making land to grow the food, etc. Also, how much energy did it take to get you your meals? There's the manual labor, the energy to run machines to harvest, prepare, and transport the food, and much more. So much energy (from labor, machines, and life) has gone into each and every one of your meals, and it can be easy for all of us to forget.

Respecting the Gift of Energy
At it's core, everything is energy. We need energy to live, which is why we eat food. But, getting the food takes a lot of energy. The way I think about it, we should be grateful for all the energy given to us in food, and one way to express that gratitude is through prayer. Through a thoughtful prayer (not one quickly rushed through), we can take time to reflect and give thanks and respect for what we are receiving. This not only helps humble us, but leads us to be more in touch with the world. To purge ourselves from ignorance is to follow the path of enlightenment.

Differing from the Christian View
While I got the idea to pray before meals from my Christian upbringing, my view still differs from what I was initially taught. Instead of praying to the Christian God and thanking him for my meal, I pray to everyone and everything that put forth energy for the sake of my meal. This includes all the plants, animals, and people involved in the process. In addition, I like to devote a part of my prayer to setting the intent of the meal. This means that I state what I want the meal to do for me (usually, nourish my body, mind, spirit and soul) in order to get the most of it.

Writing Your Own Prayer
Personally, I believe that writing your own meal prayer will benefit you the most. However I think that using someone else's prayer is better than not praying at all. This is the prayer I usually use, and is one that I wrote (if you like it, you’re welcome to use it before you eat as well):

May this food nourish my
And soul.
And may I eat in tranquility,
And be content.

May the souls of all beings who have sacrificed,
So I can eat today
Be at rest.
For food is energy,
And energy is life.
And they have given me life today.

Praying Before Meals
Prayers are wonderful ways to properly set the emotional setting of a meal, and to give respect. No matter what religious or spiritual belief you follow, you should consider prayer before meals - and even writing your own. Do you have a prayer that you read before you eat? Have you written one yourself before? We’d love to hear what you have to say in the comments below!


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