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Family dinners and prayer

By Ann Mann

Family dinners are the best! We recently got together for supper at my brother’s house. He has two children, and of course, they had their friends over. So, dinner was not the quiet affair I had hoped it would be.

Even so, what a joy to watch my niece and her friend interacting with my grandbaby. Looking back at the pictures, it seems like my niece is not too certain what to think. Her friend, on the other hand, was all smiles and said she can’t wait to have babies. To that I replied, there is plenty of time for that when you are older. Amen?

That got me to thinking about family dinners when I was growing up. We made it a point to eat together each night. It seems like our sporting schedules weren’t quite as hectic as they are today, so eating as a family was possible. Those are some of my fondest memories from my childhood.

One of the things I remember about those dinners is learning one of the first prayers I ever prayed. Maybe you prayed it, too? “God is great, God is good, let us thank Him for our food. By His hands, we are fed, Thank you for our daily bread.” 

And then there was the little wooden box that looked like a loaf of bread. Sticking out of the top were dozens of scriptures. We would take turns, my sister and brother and I, reading those scriptures each night before we ate.

I was preaching about prayer recently, and happened to mention that I would love to teach my grandson the same scriptures I learned growing up. A few days later, one of the couples in our caring congregation delivered me a modern day version of the daily scripture bread box. I cannot wait to share it with my grandson.

So, who taught you to pray? It is possible no one ever taught you. And even if they did, maybe, like me, you are still learning.  I love the instructions for praying we find in both Matthew and Luke’s gospel. We don’t have to wonder how to pray. Jesus tells us! (See Matthew 6:9-13 and Luke 11:1-4.)

As I read through these instructions, there are three things I notice. The first part of the prayer points us to the glory of God. May your name be revered, or honored, as holy. Luke’s gospel says, Hallowed be your name. Hallowed means that we are to worship, exalt, honor and adore God.  

The second part of the prayer pleads that God’s will be done. Luke uses the words, Your kingdom come. And in Matthew’s gospel, we have one more line “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

The third part of the prayer deals with our needs, and God’s provision. Give us our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. Do not bring us to the time of trial. And in Matthew’s gospel, a request for God to “rescue us from the evil one.”

 In this simple, but elegant prayer both in Luke’s gospel, and in Matthew’s, we have a model for prayer. The real joy and assurance in prayer comes from focusing on seeking Christ’s person and presence prior to seeking His provision. Seeking the face of God, before we seek the hand of God.    

If you have been reading my columns, you know my husband died suddenly one year ago. I had plans to stay busy on the day of the anniversary, and just get through the day. But God had other plans, and he revealed them during my prayer time.

I was using the prayer app Lectio 365. Each morning, I pray using the acronym for P-R-A-Y. Pause and be still. Rejoice with a Psalm and reflect on the Bible. Ask God to help us and others. And Yield to God’s will in our lives.

 It was during this time of prayer I felt the very real presence of God. A peace came over me that I cannot describe. I felt the weight of grief lifting. And I found joy in the Lord.

As I worshiped God, the focus of my heart shifted from my own personal pain to the joy of the Lord. Biblical joy comes from a deep and abiding confidence that all is well, no matter our circumstances or difficulties.

The way I felt on that Friday morning reminded me of the way I felt during those family dinners growing up. When we gathered around the table, truly listening to and loving each other. And it was even more special because it was grounded in God’s word. Imagine what our communities would look like if we all got back to eating together as a family, praying before our meals and reading scripture during the family dinner.

(Ann Mann is an Emmy Award winning journalist, now serving as pastor to Barnesville First United Methodist Church. Her email is

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