Your banquet invocation, if you choose to make one at all, should reflect both you and the company for which you are speaking. Consult your own heart. What do you need or desire? Consider your audience. What are the wishes and understandings they share? A good invocation expresses what you truly wish for, while transcending personal disagreements and congenially embrace everyone at the table.
An invocation is a prayer of entreaty, calling upon God for help or support, states "Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, 10th Ed." This kind of prayer has value just as great as that of worship, adoration, contemplation or any other kind of prayer, according to religion writer Richard J. Foster. Whether at a banquet or elsewhere, an invocation alludes to a relationship between the petitioner and God, Foster suggests.
Style and Content
How and what to request of God at a banquet should reflect you and what you think you need or desire, couched in words of your own choosing. Rehearsed exercises or prepared words may help in prayer, but only if they comport with what seems right to you, suggests Catholic nun and art scholar Wendy Beckett. Beckett's observation chimes in with that of entertainer Steve Allen on dinner-table speaking, who suggests that the most effective toasts are not necessarily the most elaborately prepared ones, but those that come from the heart. Remember also that, as far as God is concerned, no need or desire is too small to merit an invocation, notes Foster.
Who and for Whom
Banquet invocations may be made by anyone who is capable of prayer, including the host, a child in the family setting or an honoured guest, suggests the book "The Rituals of Dinner," by Margaret Visser. Unlike other kinds of prayer, however, dinner-table invocations have a public dimension. In making one, you are speaking not only for yourself but for the others at the table. To do public speaking well, you must choose words and subject matter in accordance with what your audience will understand and appreciate, observes Allen.
What you say should reflect the shared identity of the banqueters. Indeed, if not everyone at the table believes in God, you should probably forgo making any invocation at all. Saying grace at meals presumes a recognition of community, Visser notes. The same applies to invocations. Hence, if you choose to make an invocation, pitch it to those wishes and understandings that unite everyone present. For example, invoking the Lord for the success of U.S. arms in Afghanistan presumes that all at the table sympathise with the U.S. war effort.
Avoid insincerity. People are all too willing to pay God lip service because waving God as a banner keeps their conscience quiet, Beckett sagely observes. Your banquet invocation is likely to sound pretentious or hypocritical unless you really believe in God. Even if you take the trouble to recite a famous blessing or prayer, you may come across as mannered, unless the words actually express the contents of your heart.
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