Hi Visitor! Google tells me this page gets one of the highest hits on my site. Did this prayer mean as much to you growing up as it did me? I hope you find what you’re seeking, and in the meantime, if you want to hang around, I write here about the beautiful mess of life and faith – of motherhood, expat living, miscarriage, the grey-zone of faith and the beauty of chasing after the light. You’re welcome here x
“…may the Lord make us truly thankful. Amen.”
This was probably the first prayer I ever learned.
My Granny and Grandpa would recite it before each meal, and to this day, from when we pull up outside the big grey house on the hill, lunch and dinner are welcomed with this one short line.
The food is served out, bowls of steaming vegetables passed across the table as plates fill up. Someone misses the carrots and they are passed back around. Wine is poured and wine glasses jostle for table space with the left over aperitif glasses still half full of gin and tonics, and martinis. The gravy gets lost between the potatoes and the broccoli until everything else is on plates so we all watch as it gets poured over the top, hoping there’ll be enough to go around.
But at some point, plates full, a silent signal is sent or felt. Silence falls, everyone looks to the patriarch sitting in his place at the head of the table. He bows his head, and half a dozen other heads fall into humble position in neat synchronism. And the grace is said.
It struck me this time, that we say thank you for what we are about to receive, not what we have received already. It might seem more logical to stop and say grace after the meal, since we’ve tasted the food and surely know a little better whether we were actually thankful for it, or whether we’d maybe have been slower to say grace if we’d known how long the veggies were cooked for, or how tough the meat was.
But I guess that that’s why we say thank you before tasting. Whether or not it’s to our taste, we have been blessed. Whether we like the offering given, it’s one to be grateful for. Whether we are fully satisfied, this was something we should learn to be thankful for.
So often it is hard to see the blessing before me. It is easier to worry about all the what-ifs, to look at what is in front of me and feel discontent. But I haven’t eaten yet. I haven’t tucked in and tasted what is on offer. I may be surprised. I may realise, after years of claiming I hated nuts, that salted pistachios are one of the greatest pleasures of life. I may discover that that task that I’ve been putting of for weeks is not actually as hard or as awkward as it looks, that the conversation I was dreading turned out to be a special moment.
Or it may be that it is as hard as it looks. And it is an awkward conversation. And I still don’t like peanuts. What then? Is the grace made redundant because I am not satisfied? Is the blessing removed because it wasn’t what I was hoping for? Or can I perhaps realise that there is still reason to give thanks. In the hard times, in the awkward moments, in the loneliness, in the unfulfilled expectations. Can I still find reason to bow my head an give thanks?
Back in February, I read this on Ann Voskamp’s blog, A Holy Experience:
“Counting one thousand gifts is more than gratitude. That can be mere cultural construct.Counting one thousand gifts is about eucharisteo. That is a Christ command. Eucharisteo, that Greek word, for “give thanks” that expresses what Christ did at the Last Supper: take the bread of pain as grace. Give thanks for that which is hard. Endure the cross, all in view of the joy set before.
Counting one thousand gifts means counting the hard things as gifts — otherwise I’ve miscounted.”
For what I am about to receive, make me truly truly grateful, Lord, whatever it is I am about to receive.