Friday, December 9, 2011


We just added a new grace to our rotation before dinners.  We got it from a Dennis the Menace cartoon quoting a Ralph Waldo Emerson poem.  Of course.  Where do you get your graces?

Families say grace all different kinds of ways.  I grew up on the evangelical, theoretically free-form grace.  I say theoretically free-form because liturgy creeps in whether we choose it or not.  Individuals and groups establish rhythms and repeat phrases.  So, although we didn't have prescribed prayers, as each person prayed, they tended to thank for and ask for the same things habitually.

Now that we have kids, we pray a short rotation of regular graces.  The greatest hit, of course, is God is Great.  There are others, including an express grace.  More on that later. 

The new grace is:
For each new morning with its light
For rest and shelter of the night
For health and peace
For love and friends
For everything thy goodness sends
Father in heaven
We thank thee

Ol' Emerson stopped after the list.  The Church of the Brethren added the Father in heaven part, and we think it gives the whole enterprise the appropriate meaning.  And yes, as you know (admit it!), this was the Dennis the Menace cartoon on the Sunday before Thanksgiving this year, showing scenes of family and Thanksgiving goodness.

We also pray the full God is Great:

God is great, God is good
And we thank Him for our food
By His hands, we all are fed
Give us Lord our daily bread.

I include that one here because, as I said, it's the greatest hit of family graces.  Also, though, two people have said to us this fall that they'd never heard the second two lines.  I thought that was the international standard.  What do you know?  My brother and his wife are raising their kids to say "Thank you Lord for daily bread", which sounds a lot more grateful and trusting than our demand.  Oh well.  God is Great has a way of just being there, but it's actually a very solid, theological prayer.  We start by talking about God, not us and acknowledging his nature as both powerful and good.  We show gratitude, understanding that He provides for us.  We don't ask for too much - as in the Lord's Prayer - just bread for today.

Until Emerson, our most elegant grace came to us source unknown but probably Episcopal in nature:
For food and homes and loving care
For all that makes the world so fair
We thank thee, Heavenly Father.

That's a good one, and people who haven't heard it before ask about it and try to remember it.

Perhaps our longest grace, I learned at a Salvation Army boys' home in Malaysia where I did a short-term mission in college.  It was chanted quick-time in 6-17-year-old Malay accented English with a very specific rhythm:
Thank you for the food we eat
Thank you for the world so sweet
Thank you for the birds that sing
Thank you Lord for everything.  Amen.

It doesn't look that long written out.  In Malaysia, the prayer gathered speed as it went, so "Amen" sounded like the fourth and fifth syllables of "everything'.

Finally, our "express grace" when dinner prep has taken too long, or we need to go somewhere right after dinner is this:
For every cup and plateful,
Lord, make us truly grateful.



Amy M said...

We now do the "longer" version of God is great, since you taught it to us. Except Owen was disturbed by the "give us", so he added a "Please". He thinks it sounds better. Perhaps he does have manners :)

Lauren Jackson said...

We used to sing the Veggie Tales song "I Thank God for This Day" It makes a great grace. And how about Johnny Appleseed. Paige and I used to sing that one at Pioneer Ranch.