Why We Say Grace

Gail Seidel's picture

We should do this, right? Say Grace? This practice is most often associated with giving thanks before a meal - a simple thank you to God for all of our blessings, for family, for friends, for God's provisions. Especially at Thanksgiving we do this - why?

For starters, “saying grace “ is an historical practice in America dating back to a proclamation made in 1623 attributed to Governor William Bradford of the 1620 Pilgrim Colony, “Plymouth Plantation” in Plymouth, Massachusetts. He called the fledgling nation to thank God for His provisions and protection and it is worth reading:

 “ Inasmuch as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, beans, squashes and garden vegetables, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He protected us from the ravages of savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our conscience; now, I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill, between the hours of 9 and 12 in the day time, on Thursday, November ye 29th of the year of our Lord one thousand six hundred and twenty-three,and the third year since ye Pilgrims landed on ye Pilgrim Rock, there to listen to ye pastor, and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for His blessings.”

The acknowledgement of the blessing of survival, protection and freedom coming from their Creator was foundational to the citizens in our country’s early beginnings. God was acknowledged and thanked. A good idea? Uh, yes and how about a timely calling centuries later to recalibrate our national priorities?

And, “saying grace” - the importance of being thankful, is embedded in the Judeo - Christian Scriptures for generations. The biblical practice of acknowledging thankfulness to God was a cultivated habit of life dating back to ancient Israel long before America had her beginnings.

The Jewish Festivals celebrated God’s provisions. Psalms100 and 118 are among the psalms of Thanksgiving. Ephesians 5:20 and I Thessalonians 5:18 tell us to give thanks in everything. Hebrews 13:15 states that praise and thanksgiving are suitable sacrifices to offer to God.

“Saying grace” can be done and offered anytime even though associated with meals. Annie Lamott calls “saying grace” holy moments of gratitude. Her newest book Help, Thanks, Wow:The Three Essential Prayers - "It is acknowledging that this food didn’t just appear. Someone grew it. Ground it. Bought it? Baked it. Wow.”

“ Saying grace” is a viable, practical, always appropriate habit to cultivate. It is counting our blessings. It is acknowledging who is really in control – our Sovereign God. He is the Creator – we are His creatures.

Really? You mean “saying grace” even when there is no reason to be thankful is a viable practice? It’s reasonable even when there are graphic, tangible reasons not to be thankful? Is it not ludicrous and a huge denial of reality to give thanks when any sane person knows otherwise?

Consider for a minute how our man Habakkuk handled his plight in ancient Israel. The terrifying Babylonians were about to take over his country; the religious people had fallen away from God. Habakkuk was alone and isolated in a seriously desperate political situation and he chose to be thankful.

You can read all about it in this short book toward the end of the Old Testament… note especially the last chapter 3:17-19 -
“though the fig tree does not bud, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,though there are not sheep in the pen, and no cattle in the stalls… Yet, I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength…He makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.”

The circumstances were bleak but Habakkuk chose to thank God in spite of his desperate plight and to focus on the sovereign Lord to give him strength to survive.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day in America. Surely we should say grace tomorrow and the next day and the next. You may totally feel like being thankful and have a lot to anticipate. Or, you may think you have nothing to thank God for – life is pretty gloomy for you at this juncture. Will you join me and Habakkuk in choosing to be thankful simply because of who God is? And as a result may He give each of us a deep abiding sense of His strong Presence this Thanksgiving.


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