Someone emailed me yesterday, and asked me to provide my thoughts on whether prayer (over meals, specifically) in public is acceptable, per Matthew 6:5-6.

Well, I’m going to make two caveats. One, I’m not going to link to the post in question, because it has seriously derailed. Two, I’m only addressing that specific question.

So, with that said, here goes.

Prayer, indeed, is to be private. However, there is a difference between prayer, and giving thanks.

What we do when we “bless our food”, as it is commonly called, is not in the pattern of prayer which the Lord outlined, in His prayer. It is not meditation and communion with the Lord, as a fully realized prayer to God is – it is an almost ritualistic blessing, or thanksgiving, for the blessings we have received from Him.

Matthew 6:5-6 says:

“When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

This is dealing with actual communication with God – the heart-to-heart communion that every believer has with Him, and should practice unceasingly, as 1st Thessalonians 5:17 says.

Giving thanks, however, is a different thing altogether. Jesus, says Mark 6:41, blessed the food He provided for the 5,000. 5,000, I’ll venture, is sufficiently public for the sake of the issue at hand 😀

And He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food and broke the loaves and He kept giving them to the disciples to set before them; and He divided up the two fish among them all.

Giving thanks is also something we are to do continually – as Ephesians 5:20, and 1 Thessalonians 5:18 say. (The latter, incidentally, the verse after the injunction to pray without ceasing.)

The word “give thanks” used in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 is eucaristeo – the word from which Catholicism gets “The Holy Eucharist”. It is the same word used in Luke 22:19, when Jesus “gives thanks” for the bread, and says “this is my body, broken for you”.

The word used in Luke 22:19 is eulogeo, which is where we get the word “eulogy”. Different word, same principle. Matthew, Mark and Luke use this word for Jesus’ blessing of the loaves and fishes – while John uses “eucaristeo” – just as in 1st Thessalonians. Which is why I say it’s the same principle, same concept.

Jesus is dealing with prayer – real communion with Himself, in Matthew 6:5-6. He is not dealing with the blessing of food – which is what the issue I was asked to deal with concerned. So… yes, blessing the food is encouraged in Scripture – even in public.