Jesus the Christ is the supreme example that all men should follow. Paul said “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor 11:1). Paul understood that Christ is the example to be followed in all things. John writes that the Christian should abide in Him and “walk just as He walked” (1 John 2:6). When looking to Jesus for our example, in order to do as He did and live as He lived, we see His use of prayer and thanksgiving before meals. With this in mind, Christians should pray to God and give thanks before every meal as Christ has given the example.
Mark records one of these examples in his gospel account: “So He commanded the multitude to sit down on the ground. And He took the seven loaves and gave thanks, broke them and gave them to His disciples to set before them; and they set them before the multitude” (Mark 8:6). We can see very clearly in the text that Jesus gave thanks for the food for which He and others were about to receive. This pattern continues on in Mark’s text: “They also had a few small fish; and having blessed them, He said to set them also before them” (Mark 8:7). This time we see that Jesus blessed the food which they were going to eat. After Jesus gave thanks and blessed the food, they sat and ate that which God supplied. John points out to us in John 6:23 that he and the people noticed the order in which Jesus ate. Therefore he records “however, other boats came from Tiberias, near the place where they ate bread after the Lord had given thanks.” By these scriptures alone the example has been set. Before we eat meals, we are to give thanks to God and then eat the nourishment which we have received.
Paul teaches us the same thing, in that we should pray for our food before we partake of the meal. “For every creature of God is good, and nothing is to be refused if it is received with thanksgiving; for it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer” (1 Tim. 4:4-5). In the context of First Timothy 4, Paul is speaking of the great apostasy and how some would be commanding others to abstain from foods which God has created. However, Paul shows us in this very context that no food which God has created is to be refused and is to be received with thanksgiving and prayer. Look at the order which is given. We receive, we give thanks, it is sanctified by God’s Word and prayer. That is the example Jesus gave in Mark 8:6-8, “He took the seven loaves” (He received) “and gave thanks” (He received with thanksgiving), “having blessed them” (He sanctified them)—and how did He do this? He did it in prayer to the Father.
Concerning the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Christ continues with His example of giving thanks before partaking of sustenance. “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:17-19). The reason we pray before each meal is because that is the example Christ left for us. Also, we pray before our meals because we are thankful to God that He has supplied us with food, with which we are to be content (1 Tim. 6:8). The next time someone asks why we pray before meals, we can say with surety that it is because of the example Jesus Christ, our Lord, left for us.