Pastor Brian Jones is the minister of Faith Baptist Church in Rockledge, Florida. On several occasions he has mentioned that when dining in public, he will, before he prays, pause and ask his attendant if there is something he or she would like to have prayed about. I thought it was a very creative way to witness, but gave little more thought to the practice until one Sunday afternoon I went with a family to eat at a local Mexican restaurant.
Like Pastor Brian, it is my custom to pray before I eat a meal. I was taught to do this as a child and tried to instill the practice deep into the hearts of my own children. Now that the children are grown with families of their own, I continue to pray over my meals, not only out of a lifelong habit, but because it is the known will of God. Food is to be received “with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth” (1 Tim. 4:3). Food is “sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:5).
I know that many Christians hesitate to pray over their food, especially in public. Some might believe it is childish and immature in the sight of a watching world. When this is the case the Christian is unlike the Lord for Jesus gave thanks in public for food. John 6:11, “And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.”
The great pastor and Bible teacher Dr. Harry Ironside liked to tell the story of the time he was in a restaurant while on a preaching tour. As his custom, he bowed his head and prayed over his meal. When he began to eat, a man sitting across the table observing him spoke and said, “Do you always pray before you eat?” “I do,” replied Dr. Ironside. “I never do,” rejoined the man. “Neither does my dog,” said Mr. Ironside.
It is good to pray over one’s meal. It is the known will of God and the practice of the Lord Jesus. And, as Pastor Brian has discovered, it provides an opportunity to witness to others as I have discovered myself.
While at the Mexican restaurant mentioned earlier, after offering prayer over the meal, the family I was with engaged in a general conversation about the things of the Lord. Suddenly, the young waitress that had taken our order politely interrupted. She had tears in her eyes and a note in her trembling hand. She placed the paper on the table and, with a quivering voice, asked, “Would you pray for me? My husband is in jail. He is a good man but we need help. Would you pray for us?” On the paper was the name of her husband, Albert.
Of course, we paused and prayed for that young waitress with a hurting heart and an uncertain future. She stood by the side of the table and wept while we prayed. We asked the Lord to bring her husband to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, and we asked God to help the family through their ordeal.
Pastor Brian was right. Praying in public over a meal does provide a wonderful opportunity to witness and include others in the gospel of redeeming grace.