Saying Grace

1 Timothy 4:4-5

Purpose: Why do you 'say grace'? Lots of people ask this because they no longer think it is important. 'Saying Grace' uses 1 Timothy 4:4-5 to help cut through confusion about 'saying grace' and tells us once for all what 'saying grace' is for.

Confusion of Saying Grace
Basics of Saying Grace
Man's Distinctives
Resemble Animals
Sanctified by Word of God and prayer

Saying 'grace' is one of the most common evidences of Christian grace. The problem is that most people do not understand what it stands for and therefore the joy of grace is mostly removed. Those more familiar with their Bibles will quote from I Timothy 4:4-5 to provide biblical instruction for this habit.

This discussion leads to important principles essential to living a fulfilled Christian life.
"For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected, if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer." (1 Timothy 4:4-5).

Confusion of Saying Grace and 1 Timothy 4:4-5

But these verses often make people more confused than clear. First of all, many people do not understand why anything should be rejected; they don't understand absolutes. They know of no rules. Secondly, and more to the point, they do not understand why anything needs to be sanctified and if so, how food or anything else can be sanctified by God's Word and prayer. Most people connect the action of 'saying grace' with a magical ritual. We pray and God's food is blessed! They do not at all understand how God's Word and prayer does the magic, but they believe it works. That is all they care about. They want to eat! Those that think about this verse get further confused because their ritual does not include God's Word. Enough for the confusion, let us now go on to the real meaning of the passage!

Basics of Saying Grace

When we usually thank the Lord for our food, we recognize that God has given us all good things. Yes, man tends the field, but God provided it and causes it to grow. We thank Him for our daily provisions for without them we couldn't even life.

We also thank Him for how good things are. Everything God created is good. We often have more than we need. We have choices between rice and potatoes. We have the food when we need it.

Others with elderly around are often reminded how glad they still can enjoy food. Their teeth and bodily systems are working fine.

Man's Distinctives

But most often this is where we stop when it should only be the beginning! We often miss out on the joy of thanking the Lord. In order to fully understand this verse, we should realize that man and animals were made different. Animals are not self conscious. They are not aware that they exist. They just exist. God has made man to live at a different level so that he may communicate with God and his fellow man. Animals do not know how God provided for them. They just eat. They have provisions, but they do not understand why or who cares for them. We do not see much joy here. But man is totally different. He understands he is dependent upon what God has made, sustained and distributed to their lives.

Resemble animals

When we eat and enjoy things without giving thanks, we are acting much like the beasts. We just eat without recognizing and enjoying the glory of a God who provides for us. Of course, because we have this capability but many times ignore giving thanks and being thankful to God, God is angry with our unthankful hearts. This is much like an ungrateful child who takes his parent's gifts for granted.

"For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened." (Romans 1:21)

Sanctified by the means of the Word of God and prayer

So we can see that without giving thanks, the things we have are not holy or sanctified. They are wrongly used and not appreciated. How does God's Word and prayer sanctify what God has given?

  • God's Word
    We discover the essential truths about the goodness of these gifts from God's Word. We find out that it is He who in His love has provided for us. From Romans 1:21 above, we found that man knows enough where he should give thanks. But the Word of God lets us know about God's delight in providing for us, God's special design of man to be dependent upon Him and God's special care for our lives especially through Jesus Christ. Without God's Word, we would not know any of these things.

    How do you use God's Word to sanctify your meal, intimate partner times, recreation pleasures, etc.?
    • You need first of all to make sure that God's Word affirms your behavior. If we are thanking God for a violent movie we are about to see, then we should know something is wrong with our desires. If we are thanking God for the privilege of swimming even though we battle with lusts each time we go, then we should note something should be changed. Righteousness always precedes pleasure.
    • We acknowledge God's goodness in giving these things to us. God is God and we as man are dependent on Him. God delights in giving these things to us. The Word of God reminds us of all these precious truths that we often take for granted.
    • We lastly thank Him that He has made us conscious of how good God is to us. God's blessings should elicit joy in our souls. We are not mere animals but God uses these provisions to build a closer relationship with us.

  • Prayer
    Prayer seems more easily understood, but there still remains much confusion. Many just say a prayer of thanks. They do not mean it. They don't even think about it. There is no reflection of thanks. These people have assumed a ritual prayer of thanks is the same as thanking God. It is totally opposite!

    Think with me for a moment. If what God desires is heartfelt gratitude expressed to Him through prayer, but all you do is unconsciously and unwittingly say something called grace at the table, what are you doing? These people are first-class hypocrites! God wants thankfulness not empty prayers only good for pagan religions. We are worse off than the unconscious animals when we just 'say grace' without any thought of gratitude. We take the Lord's name in vain.

    We are to 'receive these things with gratitude.' It is not just the prayer of thanks but the sincere thankfulness expressing itself in prayer. The point of prayer is to give thanks. A simple thanks from the heart goes a long way. Forgetfulness shows ingratitude because we are unconscious of the Lord at our meals.

    I remember a question from the past as to whether it is important to pray aloud in a cafeteria where others might see you and not understand what you are doing? Prayer is designed to be an expression between you and your God rather than you toward others. 'Grace' chief's purpose is not a public testimony but an expression of your thanks to God. Whether silent or aloud, it does not matter. If with other Christians, it is polite to share your thanks in an out loud prayer. But we must remember that the way we live our lives also becomes a form of witness. There is nothing wrong with praying aloud if you can retain your original purpose of giving thanks to God. It is good. If you normally express your love for God through this prayer, you should continue to do it. If one decides to pray silently, that is fine. But if you then find yourself eating and not giving thanks at all, then you need to go back and pray aloud. It is not good to be more conscious of what people are thinking of our prayers than expressing our gratefulness to God.

In summary, we observe there are four possible levels in our response to God's provisions. Only the last is acceptable to God. Only in the last example is man lifted up to the full joy of communion with a great and kind God.

  • Man doesn't know of God's provision and does not give thanks.
  • Man doesn't know of God's good provision, but does give empty or ritual thanks.

  • Man does know of God's good provision but does not give thanks.
  • Man does know of God's good provision and does show His appreciation through prayer for these things.

When man ignores the word of God and prayer, then he acts as a beast only filling his appetite.

"Whose end is destruction, whose god is their appetite, and whose glory is in their shame, who set their minds on earthly things." (Philippians 3:19).

Ungratefulness does not make us an animal, but we do lower our selves to living by our appetites rather than by the teachings of God. What a big difference when we know the origin of good things and respond with gratitude. Prayer is our opportunity to express our thanks to God for providing these things.

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