The Long Prayer At Meal Time

The morning session of the Yearly Bible Conference is finally drawing to a close after four straight hours of preaching. The starving masses in the pew who foolishly skipped breakfast to be able to sleep in until six o’clock  have long consumed their strategic reserve of cough drops and breath mints  and are now gnawing on their leather Bible covers driven mad by the savory odors  of casseroles and pie that are drifting out of the basement where lunch is being set up.

And then the pastor will say these fateful words “Bro. Jackson, will you please bless the food before we are dismissed?”

A silent scream of anguish rises from the assembly for they know that lunch time has just been delayed indefinitely.  Bro Jackson is a champion prayer warrior who never allows something so petty as the hunger of others to interfere with his divine mission of intercession. He approaches the podium. He clears his throat decisively. He begins to pray.

He prays for speaker who has just spoken that God will apply each point of his sermon to the hearts of those present. In case God has forgotten  exactly what the points were he repeats them and most of the relevant supporting material.

He prays for each one of those  not present  because of sickness by name and includes a description of their ailment, their prognosis, and their current medications.

He prays for the twenty-seven missionaries supported by the church, their countries, their children, their pets, and their latest financial needs as listed in the most recent prayer letters.

He prays for our own country, the members of Congress, the President, and the upcoming elections who he hopes will replace most of them.

He prays for for a man to whom he handed a gospel tract in 1978 and invited to church but never saw him again even though the man promised to visit the very next Sunday.

But somehow in all of this…he forgets to actually pray for the food.

By the time he concludes, lunch is cold,  people are passing out from low blood sugar, and there is only fifteen minute remaining until the start of the next service…

Every church has at least one of these men. Mark him and avoid.

82 thoughts on “The Long Prayer At Meal Time”

  1. As someone who spent some time as a soft fundamentalist (really more of a very conservative evangelical) I can say that most on the evangelical end of the spectrum do like long prayers. However, I’ll say one thing for them, they knew not to have a long prayer before food (yes, we prayed, but we also ate the food while it was still warm!).

  2. This seems to happen at Thanksgiving and Christmas. The women will work hard to prepare the feast, tell the men that the meal is ready and then someone will pray a very.long.prayer while the food gets cold.

        1. And that means ALL. Leaving even the littlest thing (esp how much the MOg should be an inspiration for us all) is a sin-sin-sin! 🙄

    1. That’s pretty disrespectful of those ladies who worked so hard on that meal. They always thank the Lord for “the hands that prepared the meal” (not for the whole person) but I’m sure those ladies meant the food to be eaten while hot. Say a brief prayer, then after eating sit there for a few minutes and tell what you’re thankful for! 🙄

  3. My childhood church had a guy who prayed a good 20-30 minutes once. I know. I timed it. At another church I was in I think EVERY SINGLE PERSON who ever prayed (in the services, before meals, in prayer meetings, etc.) was that guy. When you’re hungry and/or tired the furthest thing from your mind is prayer. The way I see it, Jesus taught his disciples to pray using the Lord’s Prayer. Ever prayed it? It’s pretty short.

    1. FWIW I don’t have anything against long prayers. However, if you’re praying for a group of people PLEASE keep their stomachs, blood sugar levels, bladders, and fatigue in mind. It’s called loving your neighbor. 🙂

        1. My great-uncle is a Methodist minister and he uses this regularly, adding “Yay God, yay!” instead of the traditional “Amen.”

          It did add a little spice to family gatherings. 🙂

      1. I wish every longwinded preacher on the planet would remember this! The church we just escaped from, I mean left, this is what we had to endure every Sunday. My bladder was bursting by the time he finished his hour plus long sermon, then the altar call, then baptisms, etc, and I was in agony. My husband who is diabetic needed to eat before his blood sugar went too low. But oh no, if you become impatient during his sermon marathons you’re just not spiritual enough! Darn it we are threefold, spirit, soul AND BODY! 👿

    2. I’m not sure if I’m thinking of the same church. But if I am, I can recall one man who would get up and say this glorious, SLOOOW prayer that seemed to drag forever. Aigh. I remember all the teenagers would make snarky comments and groan every time he went up.

  4. I love this post, mainly because I can remember actually living through this. I still hate it when after the sermon is over the pastor will ask someone to close and dismis us and then they will rehash the entire sermon as if they needed to stress the points made or otherwise we will probably not remember them. Maybe they are just doing this to impress the pastor with how well they listened.

    1. We had a guy in our home church who would give the Lord the whole service schedule during his offertory prayer: “Lord, you know that we begin Sunday School at 10 a.m., then morning worship at 11. We come back on Sunday night at 6 and again on Wednesday evening at 7. We pray that you would bless this offering. Bless those who have to give and the ones who don’t have. We pray that the next time they would have to give also, etc.”

  5. What I found strange was the prayer meetings. We would spent 30 minutes going around in a circle sharing what we wanted to pray about and then another 30 on our knees in the “prayer position” repeating what we had just said. I figured we should have cut out the last 30 minutes since it was just for show, and the first 30 was when everyone was sharing with each other and with God.

  6. The meal prayers are noticeably shorter only when you don’t plan on attending the meal.

    Also noteworthy, the only instances in which ‘long prayers’ are mentioned in the Bible (Matthew 23:14, Mark 12:40, Luke 20:47), they’re always in a negative light.

  7. Then there is the woman who has to give us in great detail what is happening in her life and what she wants us to pray for. And the gossipy prayer requests that hash out what is happening in other people’s lives. Personally I like to keep it short and sweet, amen?

    1. I have to insert a little LOL here…

      No joke, one time we had a lady in our church who asked prayer for someone she knew with cancer. The preacher asked her how she knew/was related to the person. The lady replied that it was so-and-so on her favorite soap opera!

      1. Oh, no! That’s terrible! I’ve had kids in children’s church ask me to pray for their sick dolls before. I’ll pray for pets, but I don’t like praying for inanimate objects as if they’re real. (I’d pray that they find a lost toy, but I don’t realistically know how to pray that a doll will get “well.”) Sometimes I’d just thank God that that child had a toy they loved so much.

  8. When I was in school, the first time I ate with a few upperclassmen Bible majors I thought I had to launch into a complicated lengthy prayer. When I was finished, a gracious but large and imposing upperclassman leaned over and said, “Bro, when it’s time to pray for the missionaries, pray for the missionaries. But when it’s time to pray for the food, just pray for the food.” Ever since then my food prayers tend to be done in one breath. 😀

  9. One of my favorite stories concerning meal time prayers involved the great old preacher Harry Ironside who didn’t pray before meals. He was a t dinner with a group of preachers and proceeded to eat when one of the brethren said, “Brother Ironside, we pary before we eat here. Would you pray?” Ironside stoped eating, bowed his head, said “Thank you” and continued with his meal.

  10. My pastor who was VERY well known in fundamental circles used to say if someone is praying a long prayer before mealtime it could be good sign it’s the only praying they’ve done for a while! 😉 😉

    We also don’t want to forget that pious person who constantly reminds us exactly who they are talking to…”And LORD, we come to you LORD, to bring our prayer requests LORD and we humbly ask LORD”…you get the idea! 🙄

    1. There was a woman in my church when I was growing up who considered herself a “prayer warrior.” She did the “Oh Lord, thank you, Lord, for this day, and Lord, I just want to, Lord, ask you, Lord, to bless, Lord, this food….” I used to not only time her, but keep track of how many times she said “Lord.” I still have trouble focusing on other people’s prayers to this day!

  11. When I was a teen, one of the Deacons had a reputation for long prayers. One evening, when we were at snow camp and ready to turn the lights out. That Deacon was asked to pray. Before he could start, his son yelled out “Make it short, we need our sleep.” ❗

  12. “Bless this food to our bodies.” What exactly is the Lord being asked to do here? I’ve been a believer for 35 years, and I still haven’t quite figured it out. (I do love that my wife once asked the Lord to “bless this bood to our foddies…”)

    1. “Lord, bless this food to our bodies, and us to your service.” – the conclusion to the rather lengthy prayers that my dad offered up over the food during my childhood. He’s gotten better with age; his pre-meal prayers are shorter, but he still ends them exactly that way. And no, it still doesn’t make much sense to me.

    2. Lord, for the sake of my future diabetes…please miraculously turn this greasy honey ham sandwich with a side of glazed krispy kremes into a cornucopia of raw veggies as it makes the turn through my esophagus so that I might live to serve you another day and proclaim to the world that the authorized Scofield Reference KJV1611 is the only true word of God.

      1. “Father, change the molecular structure of this food, this complete trash we’re about to shove in our gullet…change the Cheeto into a carrot stick on the way down, spirit of low carb rain down on me now!” ~ Tim Hawkins

      2. It’s always killed me when someone would pray the Lord to bless the food to our bodies when that food was a load of artery clogging fattening greasy, salty, sugary unhealthy stuff. God was gonna have a hard time blessing it to our bodies without working a miracle. 😆

  13. Oh man, back when I went to a Baptist church as a kid I used to get so bored and time prayers just out of curiosity.

    I still like the prayer my dad always says even to this day “Lord, we’re thankful for these and all our many other blessings. Amen.”

    Short and to the point!

  14. I’ve heard this quote attributed to several people, from Spurgeon to Finney: “Pray 3 minutes and I’ll pray with you, pray 5 and I’ll pray for you, pray 8 and I’ll pray against you!”

  15. There’s a story I heard about Hudson Taylor, how he thanked God for the food even though he didn’t have any. When people asked why he was praying, he said “I’m thanking God ahead of time. So when we finally do get food, you’re all going to have to stop and say grace first while I can just dig right in!”

      1. Something like that happened to me! My wife and I were penniless Bible college students. As we were eating our neighbor’s leftovers for dinner, I prayed, “Lord, we don’t have food for tomorrow, but we know you’ll provide. Bless those you use to meet our need.” My “Amen” was followed by a knock on our door. I opened it to a half-dozen fellow students, each with two bags of groceries for us. “Before you call, I will answer…”

        1. I love stories like this! Our pastor in Michigan told the same kinds of stories, and in the bag of groceries they’d find on the step would be Chips Ahoy which he loved. God knows just what we need and often just what we want! :mrgreen:

  16. And in case you had brunch and are still full, there’s this prayer, “Thank you, Lord for givin’ the food that they’ll be eatin’, but now I’ll have to pass, or else I will get… ” (set to the tune of the Adam’s Family themesong) 😉

  17. “In case God has forgoten…”

    lol, I love it when people go on and on informing God of all the things that, in their ‘humble’ opinion those listening to the endless recitation need to heed, and adjust their ways accordingly. The old preaching in a prayer classic.

  18. We had a lady in the church we used to go to who was renowned for very lengthy detailed prayers, (just in case God hadn’t been paying full attention) 😉 . Anyway my OH got a bit fed up and prayed ‘Lord help our sister to understand the difference between a prayer and a testimony’ Well prayer wars broke out and the Lord told this sister that my OH needed to repent of his unclean lips.

  19. I like being a Lutheran. We all pray together ..

    “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest and let this food to us be blessed”

    I like the Catholic one too.

    “Bless us Oh Lord, and these, Thy gifts, which we are about to receive, through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

    Appropriate, reverent, short, and we all get to pray it together.

  20. Didn’t you ever sing

    Thank you Lord for giving us food!
    Thank you Lord for giving us food!
    For giving us FOOOOOOD
    For giving us FOOOOOOD
    Thankyou LORD, for giving us food.
    Amen.

    (Sung to the superman theme song). There are other versions too, to the same tune.

  21. And this one –

    God is
    Great and
    God is
    Good and
    (speed up now)
    So we
    Thank Him
    For Our
    Food and

    AMEN!(when saying amen make your hand and arms close like a shark mouth)

    Sung to the Jaws “tune”.

  22. Also, this was a favourite
    (Tune of “Rock Around the Clock”)
    God is great, God is good
    And we’re gonna thank Him for our food
    We’re gonna thank Him morning, noon, and night
    We’re gonna thank you, Lord, You’re otta sight!
    Amen! Ch ch ch ch ch, ch, ch
    Amen! Ch ch ch ch ch, ch, ch
    AMEN!

  23. Ah yes. I was actually quite the lucky chap! In my old IFB church, the youth pastor would usually pray. For bigger, more diverse groups of people, he would maybe hash it out a minute longer for their poor old souls sake. But when it was just the teenagers, it was probably the fastest, most simplistic prayer anyone could ask for. “Dear God, thank you for this food, amen.” One-breath prayers were always a joy for us.

  24. The long prayers I’ve heard are almost always affiliated with Thanksgiving or Christmas meals. They have to go on forever about everything else but the food itself.

    My questions: Why are we supposed to pray before eating food, and what are we supposed to pray for?

    1. Because it’s the way we always do it. 🙂
      Had a friend in school – loved going to lunch with him, b/c when I ate with him, we would never pray before the meal; it would always occur at some random point; he would be in the middle of eating, then say, “Let’s pray”. 😎

    1. Markus, why you mean to tell me you did not document each individual act the Lord did for you today and repeat it back to Him in excruciating detail? 😥
      Go git right with gid! 😆

  25. During a short prayer before Sunday School:

    “…And again we pray for Deacon Phil’s shoulder replacement surgery next week. We pray that you will guide the doctor’s hands and that no tissue will be cut that shouldn’t be cut. That you help them saw the bone in two and remove the damaged material….etc and etc.”

    Afterwards:

    “Deacon Phil! You don’t look so well. You OK?”

  26. I’m a pastor of nearly 40 years’ standing, but having been raised a fundie with expectations of how and what to pray at prayer meetings, it conditioned me so negatively that after all this time I still feel uncomfortable praying out loud spontaneously. That’s a painful thing for me to admit.

  27. I was so engrained…once I prayed and asked God to bless an entire box of Krispy Kreme Doughnuts to our bodies. After the prayer I busted out in laughter…probably hell bound for that one.

    1. I’m pretty sure God will allow a pass on Krispy Kreme…they’re American (and from the South, too, unlike those damnyankee Dunkin’ Donuts!) Now, if they’d been from one of those little independent shops run by immigrants with their strange foreign ways, yes, you’re headed to the unquenchable fire. 😉

      1. Krispy Kremes and Dunkin’ Donuts got nothing on Tim Horton’s the national pride of Canada. As an American now living in Canada I’ve had all three and I’ll take Timmy’s any day. 😀

  28. Many of my enemies talk to Him all day long, yet never in such dreary means.. many thanks they send that way, many requests. sometimes while they are jogging, somethimes while driving.

  29. Ha! My uncle is an ordained minister — Methodist, I think, but I won’t swear to it — and my dad was always SOOOO disapproving at the family’s holiday meals because my uncle’s prayers tended to be of the “Over the teeth” variety as opposed to my father’s long drawn-out prayers that ended in cold, congealed food.

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