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Grace is a name for any of a number of short prayers said or an unvoiced intention held prior to or after eating, thanking deity and/or the entities that have given of themselves to furnish nutrients to those partaking in the meal. Some traditions hold that grace and thanksgiving imparts a blessing which in some traditions is held to sanctify or make sacred the meal. In the English language tradition, reciting a prayer prior to eating is traditionally referred to as "saying grace".

A prayer of Grace is said to be an act of offering thanks to God for granting humans dominion over the earth and the right and ability to sacrifice the lives of divine creations for sustenance; this thanks is the "saying of Grace" prior to and/or after eating of any meal.

If one is not religious and the rest of the table is saying grace, it is considered to be polite and culturally appropriate to quietly observe or just bow one's head. It is often considered impolite or incorrect to start eating before grace has been said and completed.

The saying of grace may have entered into the English language Judeo-Christian cultures with the Jewish mealtime prayer Birkat Hamazon, though any number of cultures may have informed the practice or it may have arisen spontaneously by individuals and then perpetuated in family traditions and social institutions.

The transignification, transubstantiation, and agape feasts may have informed the practice of grace.

The American tradition of Thanksgiving

In American Christianity the head of the household often ad libs a special grace on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter while the others observe a moment of silence. In some households it is customary for all at the table to hold hands during the grace.

Typical Christian grace prayers

  • Ecumenical. God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. Amen.
  • Protestant. Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.
  • Catholic. Let us pray! Bless us, O Lord, and these, Thy/Your gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy/Your bounty. Through Christ, our Lord. Amen.
  • Catholic (Latin). Nos oremus! Benedic, Domine, nos et hæc Tua dona, quæ de Tua largitate sumus sumpturi. Per Christum, Dominum nostrum. Amen.
  • Catholic (German). Lass’t uns beten! Segne uns, o Herr, und diese deine Gaben, die wir von deiner Güte nun empfangen werden. Durch Christus/Christum, unseren Herr'n. Amen.
  • Anglican. Bless, O Father, thy gifts to our use and us to thy service; for Christ’s sake. Amen.
  • Eastern Orthodox. O Christ God, bless the food and drink of Thy servants, for holy art Thou, always, now and ever, and unto the ages of ages. Amen. The one saying the prayer may make the Sign of the Cross over the food with his right hand. After the meal, all stand and sing: We thank Thee, O Christ our God, that Thou hast satisfied us with Thine earthly gifts; deprive us not of Thy heavenly kingdom, but as Thou camest among Thy disciples, O Saviour, and gavest them peace, come unto us and save us. There are also seasonal hymns which are sung during the various Great Feasts. At Easter, it is customary to sing the Paschal troparion.
  • Scots (The Selkirk Grace). Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it; But we hae meat, and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be thankit.
  • Australian (any denomination). Come Lord Jesus, be our Guest, let this food of ours be blessed. Amen.
  • Common in UK religious schools. For what we are about to receive, may the Lord make us truly thankful. Amen.

Note: Many Christian households or institutions (e.g. schools) ad lib grace at every meal, and it is not uncommon for events from the day to be mentioned in the prayer.

Jewish grace

With the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalemmarker in 70 CE, the offering of the presribed sacrifices ceased in Judaism. Thereafter, the Rabbis prescribed the substitution of other ritual actions to fill this void in Jewish obedience to the Torah. The ritural washing of hands and eating of salted bread is considered to be a substitute for the sacrificial offerings of the kohenim (Jewish priests).

Though there are separate blessings for fruit, vegetables, non-bread grain products, and meat, fish, and dairy products, a meal is not considered to be a meal in the formal sense unless bread is eaten. The duty of saying grace after the meal is derived from : "And thou shalt eat and be satisfied and shalt bless the Lord thy God for the goodly land which he has given thee." Verse 8 of the same chapter says: "The land of wheat and barley, of the vine, the fig and the pomegranate, the land of the oil olive and of [date] syrup." Hence only bread made of wheat (which embraces spelt) or of barley (which for this purpose includes rye and oats) is deemed worthy of the blessing commanded in verse 10.

After the meal, a series of four (originally three) benedictions are said, or a single benediction if bread was not eaten

Islamic Grace

In Islam the concept of grace stems from the fact that each of us is responsible for our fate. Even though collectively we may come as one during congregation, we must remember that we came into this world alone and we shall leave it alone. Hence Muslims individually say Bismillah ar-Rahman, ar-Raheem before beginning a meal.

At the end the Muslims say "Al humdu lil Allahil lazi at'amanaa wasaqaana waja'alana minal muslimeen", translated as "Thank you, oh Allah for feeding us and making us amongst the believers"

Baha'i Grace

The Baha'i Faith has these two prayer:

"He is God! Thou seest us, O my God, gathered around this table, praising Thy bounty, with our gaze set upon Thy Kingdom. O Lord! Send down upon us Thy heavenly food and confer upon us Thy blessing. Thou art verily the Bestower, the Merciful, the Compassionate."

"He is God! How can we render Thee thanks, O Lord? Thy bounties are endless and our gratitude cannot equal them. How can the finite utter praise of the Infinite? Unable are we to voice our thanks for Thy favors and in utter powerlessness we turn wholly to Thy Kingdom beseeching the increase of Thy bestowals and bounties. Thou art the Giver, the Bestower, the Almighty."

Hindu Grace

Hindus use the 24th verse of the 4th chapter of Bhagavad Gita as the traditional prayer or blessing before a meal. Once the food is blessed it becomes Prasad, or sanctified as holy

Brahmaarpanam Brahma Havir

Brahmaagnau Brahmanaa Hutam

Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam

Brahma Karma Samaadhinaha

Which translates as 'The act of offering is God (Brahma), the oblation is God, By God it is offered into the fire of God, God is That which is to be attained by him who sees God in all.'

Sometimes, the 14th verse from the 15th chapter of Bhagavad Gita is used:

Aham Vaishvaanaro Bhutva

Praaninaam Dehamaashritha

Praanaapaana Samaa Yuktaha

Pachaamyannam Chatur Vidam

This translates as 'Becoming the life-fire in the bodies of living beings, mingling with the upward and downward breaths, I digest the four kinds of food.'

Other pre-meal sayings

In Japanmarker it is customary to put one's hands together and say "Itadakimasu" ('receive' humble) before a meal.

See also


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