It’s a habit that most of us were taught as children: to say a short prayer of thanks before partaking in a meal. I have obviously given up saying grace altogether since loosing my faith, but something happened last week that got me thinking again about this simple gesture.
Often I find myself eating with groups of people – let it be family, friends or colleagues – and saying grace is often a natural activity before eating with a crowd. I’m not one to cause a public fuss over belief or tradition, so when I find myself in such a situation I politely sit by, with my eyes open, as others bow in prayer.
Such was the case a week ago, when Cori and I went out with a few friends to the local Spur Restaurant to enjoy an evening meal together. Once we had received our orders, the group bowed in prayer to offer thanks. As I sat there, with my eyes open, I suddenly found myself looking at the plate of food that had been placed in front of me. I always order a Double Hunger Buster Burger (two hamburger patties with chips) when I go to Spur, and as I sat there looking at it, waiting for the group to finish their prayer, I suddenly found myself thinking about the rationale behind saying grace.
Saying grace implies that it is God, not us, who has given us our food. But this is clearly not the case. It is only through our own effort and toil that we obtain our nourishment. The food that I was about to eat had gone through a long process to get to my table: there would have been a cattle rancher who produced the meat; a farmer who harvested the potatoes for the chips; truck drivers who transported the frozen food; a cook sweating over the grill; a waiter to bring the order to my table. If I have anyone to thank for my food, it would be these individuals who worked hard to produce it. But I also have myself to thank: it is through my effort, of working eight hours a day, that has enabled me to eat at all.
I don’t see where God fits into all of this; if he exists, what role does he play in supplying my daily bread?