I’ve been thinking a lot about the exercise of saying grace lately. Even when I was a dyed-in-the-wool, fundamentalist Christian I always was nagged by the feeling that we were doing it all wrong. Every time there was opportunity for believers to get together and pray it was always the same deal, “Please heal my friend Sarah’s next door neighbor’s friend from that nasty sinus infection.” Even better, the prayer that begins with, “Now Lord you know…” and then they proceed to tell God what he knows for the next 5 minutes. I have literally thought, “Geez, God knows, we’ve already established that. Who are you telling…us? We don’t need to know the details, God does and…HE ALREADY KNOWS! It just seems to be so contrived–like a lot of Christian practices. I could never shake the feeling that God probably had bigger fish to fry.
Not long ago, my husband asked me to say grace at dinner. Unbeknownst to him, I no longer believed, but I began, as I usually would have; it felt silly to me. I didn’t like it. What should I pray for? Everything I thought of just seemed ridiculous to bring before the God of the universe, if such a God actually exists. “Bless this food” just seemed inadequate. What does that even mean? I thought of praying for the war in Iraq to end, for the end to hatred and bigotry, or maybe even the cure for cancer, but I think my family would have thought I’d gone ’round the bend, for sure. Not that they wouldn’t want to pray for those things, but not at the dinner table; that would be very out of character. There are certain prayers for certain circumstances, don’t ya’ know.
I don’t even remember what I prayed for now; I just know my family looked at me in a way that said, “What the…?” Oh well. What do you do? I can’t imagine what would happen if I simply said, I think I’ll pass on the grace thing today. It would be…heretical, especially around our dinner table. We’ve always prayed. If I decided to stop saying grace, what would I replace it with? I’ll have to think about that and try some ideas out next time. Maybe when I’m out to dinner with Christian friends… ah yes, praying in public, especially in a restaurant…well, that’s a blog for another day.