How Did the Practice of Saying Grace Before Meals Start?

Saying grace before meals, the practice of thanking God for food before eating, is a Jewish practice that was adopted by early Christians following the examples of Jesus and the apostle Paul, both of whom said grace before meals as described in Acts 27:35. The origin of grace before meals was established in the Old Testament sacrifices which included eating some of the sacrifices.

Under the Levitical ceremonies, the food was regarded as holy and held religious significance. Judaism and Christianity continue with these traditions around food to date. Jewish practices have six different blessings for different varieties of food, including wine, bread, cakes, fruits vegetables and dairy products.

Traditional prayers before meals were first observed by the Jews as a community to thank God before they became a household practice. In the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy 8:10, the people were asked to remember God as the provider of food and well-being. This was after the Jews had settled in the promised land and generations passed, forgetting the hardships of slavery in Egypt and the wilderness. Since then, Jews pray before and after meals because of this command while the early Christian church continued the practice following the example of Jesus Christ.

Christians started saying a prayer before meals following the acts of Jesus as recorded in two instances found in Matthew 14:15-21 and 15:32-38. In both accounts, Jesus thanked God before He broke the bread. The apostle Paul solidified this practice of praying before eating, as recorded in Acts 27, where he was in a hurricane battered ship and near starvation together with 276 other people. He took some bread and gave thanks to God in Acts 27:35.