I’m out of the YSA circuit now, but when I was there I often heard the prayer, “Please bless the refreshments, that they may nourish and strengthen our bodies.” It was funny because the “refreshments” were usually cookies and punch. I am glad I was never called on to bless the refreshments, because I probably would have refused. Putting the questionable nourishing power of donuts aside, why do we ask for a blessing on the food? Do we expect it to change the food in some way? What kind of change?
The Family Guidebook (LDS.org) says, “Parents should teach their children to thank God for their food and ask Him to bless it before they eat. Each person, including young children, should be given a turn to ask God to bless the food.” Okay, so we should bless the food, but it does not say why… Some possibly related scriptures: “And ye shall serve the LORD your God, and he shall bless thy bread, and thy water; and I will take sickness away from the midst of thee, (Exodus 23:25).” “Then he took the five loaves and the two fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed them, and brake, and gave to the disciples to set before the multitude, (Luke 9:16).” Still, not very clear. A lot of things happen in the Bible that we do not practice.
A discussion at Splendid Sun delved into this issue a few years back: “I have come to drop the customary blessing on the food, since I don’t know what it does and I can’t find any evidence that it does anything or is commanded or even recommended by God.” – steve h. “Before I gave up blessing the food, I started getting rid of the strengthen and nourish thing. – John. “What about opening our mouths if we accidentally take a bite first so that the blessing can get down there?” – S. Hancock.
BYU law professor John Welch said this in a devotional speech: “May you pray over your books, as you would bless food for thought.” Why don’t we bless things besides food? (Maybe some do, but I never have.) What about this scripture: “…ye must not perform any thing unto the Lord save in the first place ye shall pray unto the Father in the name of Christ, that he will consecrate thy performance unto thee, that thy performance may be for the welfare of thy soul, (2 Nephi 32:9).” Perhaps we should ask a blessing on everything we do that relates to the welfare of our soul.
I think many of us have become ritualistically obsessed with the word “bless” (as it relates to food) to the point that it has lost its meaning. We need to figure out what “bless the food” means to us, or our prayers around the table may lack meaning. And while I’m thinking about this, I’m going to consider blessing my copy of The Complete Adult Psychotherapy Treatment Planner.
A few more questions:
- Where/when did the blessing on the food originate?
- Is asking for a blessing on the food more important than asking for one on any other object?
- What is significant of food?
- If we don’t bless the food, what are we missing out on?
- Why the repetition–What is the purpose of blessing every meal?