When it comes to setting priorities in our home, having dinner together is at the top of the list. Considering my husband and I both have demanding jobs and my travel schedule puts me on the road for a day or two most weeks, getting home before the kids are “hangry” is no small challenge. Still, we pull off the feat more often than not and when we finally sit down together at the dinner table, the first thing we always do is thank God for our food. I realize this is a practice in many homes with people from many different faiths. But this week, I wondered in what ways this ancient tradition persists with others. I know some people who sing a song while others say the same prayer every time they gather. Others I know take turns or have one person in the family speak on behalf of everyone. Around our dinner table there are a few constants we generally observe when we give thanks:
Rules of The Road
Hold hands (“No son, the dog doesn’t count. Let go of his collar, please.")
No sneaking food during the prayer
Unless you’re company, you participate
Closing your eyes is optional
Mid-prayer giggling, laughing, squeezing hands, peeking in order to wink, or asking questions is allowed. (We imagine God likes silly kids as much as we do.)
These “rules” are really more akin to “guidelines” since much of the time when we “Say Grace,” we like to shake things up. Usually, that means a quick conversation before we get started to decide WHAT we’re going to do. Yes, it seems odd to huddle up for a game plan on “what theme” our grace takes, but most good stuff in life involves at least a smidge of planning, right?
Why should prayers be any different?
The actual mechanics of what to say is mostly left to each family member, but the kids are pretty good at coming up with ideas. These are just a few of the ways we make our time of “thanks” a little creative:
Thank God for the food on your plate and be specific (“Thank you God for food, but especially for 'Taco Night.'” Taco night always seems to get a special shout out. Muy Bueno, Mi Padre!)
Pray for a family from our previous year’s Christmas cards. (See the post here for the Christmas Box idea.)
Pray for someone in our family – Pick the person across (to your left or right) from you. Or pray for someone in the family that doesn’t live with us.
Personal Requests - Ask God to help you on something that you’re worried about or need. Sometimes, we simplify it by simply asking everyone to pick one word that best represents a top, current need. This makes prayers short, but sweet. (For example, "God, thanks for our food tonight... and please give me courage.")
Pick a need – Sometimes we pick a theme around other people’s sadness or hurts.
Our goal isn’t to be innovative for the sake of being different, but to have our kids learn to express gratitude for our blessings in a way that is both engaging AND fun.
Do you say grace in your home? What traditions do you observe?