Monday, February 11, 2008
I’m always quick to challenge and question others, especially my wife, when they say something overtly cliché. For whatever reason, I’m a stickler about this kind of thing. I often will respond with a “Could you please tell me what that even means? Where did that originate?” For the sake of example, I’ve tracked down a few clichés that all will know what they’ve been adopted to insinuate, but likely have no idea whatsoever where the saying originated. “Straight from the horse’s mouth” – “Bought the farm” – “Son of a gun” – “For the love of Pete” – “Knock on wood” – “Dead as a doornail”. OK, you get the point.
Much to my shock and excitement, my wife turned the tables on me last week. She point blank asked me, “Why do we pray before we eat?” I, with a big grin, responded, “I don’t really know… but I’m going to find out!” Of course the “I’m a good Christian”, Sunday School acceptable answer is, ”We pray before a meal to give thanks unto the Lord for His bountiful blessings that He has graciously bestowed upon us one and all.” But I challenge you to personally examine yourself to see if this too has become something lethargically habitual.
Our rhetoric is chock full of sayings and phrases that we don’t even know how to define. “Saying the blessing” or “saying grace” has the ability to become little more than another “Let the cat out of the bag”. In other words, we must be careful that we don’t repetitiously say a few lines without even really knowing what is coming out of our mouth. We could spend days discussing how “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” (Proverbs 18:21a), but that’s’ not really where I want to head with this, for now. I simply want us all to know WHY we do what we do and know WHY we say what we say.
As far as origins, I decided to not spend more than a couple of minutes looking into it. After all, this isn’t really a deep, theological mystery here that I feel the need to unfold. If you need something scriptural though, after mentioning those who “abstain from foods”, 1 Timothy 4:4&5 states, “For everything created by God is good and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer”. Otherwise, I can’t really find anywhere that the Lord desires us to specifically recite a blessing before our meals. (Oddly, in older texts and traditions, such as in Deuteronomy 8, people said thanks after the meal.) We also know that Jesus was known to “bless the food” on several documented occasions in the Gospels.
Finding a common thread, Romans 12:14 says, “Bless those who persecute you; bless and curse not”. The word bless, in both examples - Jesus with the food and our response to others - is the Greek word “eulogeo” which means to speak well of. Our mouths hold such great power when we speak. With each little word that we choose to utter, blessings and curses literally come into being. To me, that brings such a responsibility to all that I choose to speak, but to stay on topic, even that twenty or thirty seconds before a meal could loose Heaven onto the earth. What if everyone that is truly a Believer decided to pray, with great expectation and faith, “Lord Your Kingdom of Heaven be manifested in this room in which I’m now sitting!”? What is more powerful, a prayer that is derived from our innermost being where the Spirit dwells or a half-hearted “thank you for food and grandma and blah, blah, blah” that is prayed from a nearly comatose mind?
I believe it’s not all about what you say, it is about where it originates that I believe is key. After all, we know that God is not interested in the flattering lips of men. If the words uttered from my mouth are birthed in love, gratitude, a thankful heart and strained through the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, then there are no worries as to the outcome. Blessing must come forth. We know that the Lord desires us to “Honor Him as God (and) give thanks.” (Romans 1:21), so let’s make sure that is what we’re really doing.
* I know this article is somewhat out of the ordinary around here. I purposely wanted to address something light-hearted today, I’ve been studying Paradise and Sheol and needed a break!