In feasting on God's blessings, to be purified from the idolatry of the world, let your table be His table and feast on Him.
I cringe inside every time I hear it and at the fact that I have said it: “Let’s pray so we can eat.” For so many, prayer has become an awkward nuisance of a mealtime formality to get out of the way so that we can get on with our meal. And we use prayer this way with other occasions, too - to get on and get finished. Prayer is little more than an opening invocation and a closing benediction - something to set the tone and send us on our way.
Think about such statements: “Let’s pray so we can eat.” “Let’s pray so we can get started.” “Let’s pray so we can wrap it up.” The idea is really very simple and very insulting to God, whether intended or not: get the prayer out of the way so we can get on with why we are really here - enjoying our food - enjoying our services - enjoying our day after the services - without feeling guilty for not having given God his nod as we go by. In this frame of mind, prayer is a step on to enjoying everything God has given us, except Him.
Jesus has a way of looking right in at what is really going on in our hearts. After He miraculously fed the multi-thousand multitude with the five loaves and two fishes and went on His way, they went looking for Him, not for what He could do for their souls, but for what He could put in their bellies. Had they been blessed by Him? Oh, yes, and they wanted more. But they wanted more from Him, not more of Him. If they had found Jesus with a banquet spread and ready for them, they would have rushed and brushed right by Him to get to it - just like we do every time we pray so we can eat.
How casually we brush by Him so we can get to His blessings. He says He is the door, and we believe it! He is the door to go through to get to all we want from Him, missing the point that He is the door into the very presence of God in the kingdom of God! We look to Him with a searching eye, looking for all the treasures of pleasure we want Him to lavish on us, forgetting that He Himself is the first and greatest treasure of pleasure for us!
How glad we are for Jesus to hold the door open for us to come in and eat, but would we miss Him if He was not at the table with us? I have sat at many tables where it was obvious that no one even noticed. After giving Him their passing greeting and gratitude, they just went on with their meal, not to give Him another thought.
In a most extreme case of this, the ancient Corinthian Christians slipped into a bad habit of brushing by the Lord when coming to the table for the Lord’s Supper. They disregarded Him in the sacred symbolism of the sacrament, and turned it into just another festivity for eating, drinking, and being merry. We are left with no doubt about how the Lord felt about and responded to their egregious sin:
They feasted on the bread and wine (I think a few other foods, too) without affectionately and reverently discerning and remembering the broken body and shed blood of our Lord. Thank God for His merciful longsuffering, but with them He clearly made an extreme point to deter them and us from repeating that same offense.
Bowing the head and moving the lips with audible words of thanks off the tongue are just physical gestures without intimate substance when the heart is not, in affectionate gratitude, set on the Lord, rather than what is on the plate. So much prayer is nothing more than a formal expression of thanks to God for playing His part - fulfilling His role - to keep our bodies covered and our bellies filled. “God has provided so we can eat - and rightly so - so, let’s pray so we can eat.”
We must not miss this critical point: Whatever God gives us to partake of, it is for the ultimate pleasure of partaking of Him. We need to turn our hearts around, set them squarely on Him in the midst of all He provides, and say, “Thank you for all You have given us in giving us Yourself. We eat so we can pray. We eat so we can worship. We eat so that as Your handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, we can do those good works, which [You have] prepared in advance for us to do.”4
The next time you sit down to a meal, by all means, feast on what God has blessed you with. But in feasting on His blessings, to be purified from the idolatry of the world, let your table be His table and feast on Him.
1. John 6:26 NIV
2. 1 Corinthians 11:27–31 NIV
3. Jesus, Matthew 15:8 NIV
4. Ephesians 2:10 NIV
5. Psalm 34:8 NIV
6. John 6:35, 51, 53-58 NIV
7. Jesus, Revelation 3:20 ISV
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