Most of us learned to pray before meals a long time ago. Parents teach their small children to pray before meals and, sometimes, even after meals. Such prayer before meals is sometimes called “grace,” as in, “Let us say grace,” coming from the Latin word gratia, meaning “thanks.”
The custom of praying over a meal is ancient in our faith tradition. Even before Jesus, who prayed over the gifts of the Last Supper and over the gifts at the multiplication of the loaves and fish, ancient Jews prayed over their meals. They did so in gratitude both for the food and for the land which the Lord had given them.
Our familiar meal prayer today, “Bless us, O Lord,” dates back to the Gelasian Sacramentary, named for Pope Gelasius, who led the Church at the end of the fifth century.
Short though it is, our blessing prayer contains three of the four following main types of prayer: gratitude, supplication, praise, and contrition. We can break the meal prayer down into these specific prayer parts:
Supplication: “Bless us, O Lord”
Gratitude: “and these, thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty,”
Praise: “through Christ our Lord, Amen.”
Our Meal prayer keeps us linked to the never-ending daily prayer of the Church and reminds us of the sacred meal that Jesus left for us, to be shared in community, until He comes again.
Prayer before Meals:
Bless us, O Lord and these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Prayer after Meals:
"We give You thanks almighty God, for these and all Thy benefits, who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen."
As Thanksgiving falls this week, below is a special Thanksgiving prayer.
A Catholic Thanksgiving prayer
Loving God, who created and sustains the universe, who loved us all into being, and who gives us every good thing, we thank you for the blessings that you bring into our lives. We thank you for the gift of life itself, which you gave us in our mothers’ wombs. We thank you for the fresh start of each new day, which is a sign of your renewing and creative love. And we thank you for our friends, our families, our neighbors and our coworkers, whose human love is an image of your divine care. Increase our gratitude this Thanksgiving Day and help us to recognize all the good things that we have, both large and small. And magnify our desire to share what we have with others, so that they too may be grateful to you, Loving God. Amen.
Resources from: Simply Catholic; I Am Catholic – Archdiocese of Baltimore