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Will pray for food

A man stands at the end of an interstate off-ramp holding a cardboard sign. “Will work for food,” it pleads. It is a simple offer, but many people ignore it.

“Will pray for food.” Have you ever seen anyone holding a sign like that? I haven’t either, but “Will pray for food” can describe part of your prayer life and mine.

Author James Pope
Rev. James Pope, executive editor of Forward in Christ

Personal prayer is the focus of this month’s installment of the “Free in Christ” series (p. 10). As Christians, we are free to pray to our God anywhere, anytime. That includes thanking the Lord for the food he puts on our tables every day.

In explaining the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, Martin Luther wrote, “God surely gives daily bread without our asking, even to all the wicked, but we pray in this petition that he would lead us to realize this and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” We can receive our daily bread with thanksgiving when we take a few moments to thank the Lord for our food.

Martin Luther described the opposite course of action in his typically colorful way: “We should receive our gifts from God almighty with reverence and thanksgiving and not go to the table as pigs to the trough and leave the table, after we have taken our fill, without thanking our good God with the slightest little prayer or whisper, nay, without ever thinking of our Lord God, who feeds us ingrates out of pure mercy and kind benevolence” (What Luther Says, Volume II, p. 1,084).

The common table prayer has served Christians well for hundreds of years. “Come, Lord Jesus, be our guest, and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.”

In addition, Scripture provides other table prayers: “Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his mercy endures forever” (Psalm 118:1 Evangelical Heritage Version). “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food at the proper time. You open your hand and satisfy the desires of every living thing” (Psalm 145:15,16). The prayers we compose on our own are also meaningful expressions of gratitude to the Lord for our daily food.

Expressing gratitude for food can take place in the privacy of our homes and in public places. It is a humble, wonderful testimony of faith when Christians bow their heads or fold their hands and pray in places like restaurants.

I remember a Christian woman who informed me that she was going to be moving into an assisted living facility. She had mixed emotions about that change in life, but she was determined to maintain the routines of her faith. That included praying at mealtime in the facility’s dining room.

After she adjusted to her new surroundings, I visited her and inquired how things were going. She reported that the move had gone well, but there was one surprise. One day, another resident approached her in the dining room and said, “I’ve noticed how you pray silently before meals. I haven’t prayed since I was a little boy, but I want you to know I’m praying again because of you.”

We never know who may be observing our prayers in public or what effect that activity might have on them. We do know that the Lord listens to and answers all our prayers no matter where we pray. That includes our prayers at mealtimes.

So, let “Will pray for food” continue to describe your prayer life and mine.

Author: James Pope
Volume 111, Number 06
Issue: June 2024

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  • James F. Pope

    James Pope brings a variety of experiences to his ministry at Forward in Christ, including serving parishes in Wisconsin and Florida; teaching history, theology, and staff ministry courses at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.; serving as the “Light for our path” columnist for FIC from 2014–2019; and answering theological questions submitted to the WELS website from 2014–2021.

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This entry is part 6 of 17 in the series before-you-go

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