Children's prayers before a meal are often short and rhythmical, instructional, delightful, reverential and accessible. Jesus Christ taught about prayer in his Sermon on the Mount, quoted in Matthew Chapter 6: " ... give us this day our daily bread." The Bible records Jesus giving thanks and blessing food on several occasions, for example, when he fed large numbers with little food, and at his Last Supper, as was his Jewish custom.
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Picture a family breakfast table, seven in all and the youngest barely 3. With their heads bowed and hands linked, the father leads the prayer:
"The light of the sun makes bright the day, after darkest nighta
And oh my soul give thanks to the sun, for in it shines the light of God,
And oh my soul be up and doing !"
The 3-year-old shouts, "Up and doing!" and the family choruses: "Blessings on this meal." The joy and celebration of life come naturally at age 3.
Meditation site writer Susan Helene Kramer offers a few short and catchy interfaith prayers that young children can readily absorb. They include:
"Meal time blessings
We ask and pray
To be with us
All through the day."
"Lord, for this food
And all we need
We give thanks
For what we receive."
"The meal prayer or blessing--saying grace--is a way to show appreciation for the bounty of nature, and all our daily gifts of grace," according to Kramer.
The Thanksgiving Pilgrims of 1620 looked to the Bible and found it gave instruction to give thanks, "Nearly from cover to cover," according to the All About Prayer website. The website offers a simple prayer that children can say on Thanksgiving Day:
"Thank you God for all that grows,
Thank you for the sky's rainbows,
Thank you for the stars that shine,
Thank you for these friends of mine,
Thank you for the moon and sun,
Thank you God for all you've done!"
The great Shawnee chief Tecumseh (1768-1813) penned a simple and inspiring prayer that older children, with their growing awareness of the contribution the original inhabitants made to America, will appreciate:
"When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength.
Give thanks for your food and the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself."
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