I wrote this in June 2003 but I refer people to it enough that I thought it deserved to be re-posted.
In small group tonight, we were talking about prayer and witnessing before diving into the Book of Revelation. One of the contexts given was saying grace in a public place like a restaurant and it reminded me of this…
Since I embraced Christ at age 14, I’ve been fairly intentional about praying before I eat. I was subtle about it at first and got bolder as time went on. By the time I left for college at age 18, I was praying before meals regularly. I wasn’t obnoxious about it — I’d just bow my head for a few moments — but I was very conscious to do so. At first, this really puzzled the motley crew of non-Christian influences with whom I hung out in college and the joke became that I was “waiting for the Lactaid to kick in” if I was eating with Das Group. People knew to just hold off on conversating with me for however long my head was bowed and I didn’t make a huge deal out of it.
I was really focused on being inconspicuous at first because I thought I was shoving my faith in peoples’ faces but everyone was really OK with it and some people actually told me during some of the deeper one-on-one conversations we had that they really thought that it was cool. Others would bow their heads with me if we were all going out to eat and my friend Amy actually asked if we could say grace when we ate together in our apartment during our senior year. Granted, it was a silent prayer but it was a time to give credit to the One who made it possible to have the food on our plates. I’ve gotten lax about my quiet times lately and even praying before I fall asleep (I tend to fall asleep *while* praying a lot of the time) but I’m still very vigilant about saying grace. This puzzles me because I’m doing the little prayers instead of the big ones; but by the same token, I’m also acknowledging my gratefulness to the Lord for what I have and that I would not have it without Him.
Another thing that came of saying grace was that it taught my friends about how much my faith meant in my life. In November 1999, my life was in pieces (literally) and I came into the dining hall one morning in tears. I was eating alone and my friend Amy came and sat down with me and asked me what was wrong, which made me cry harder. She then said the most magical words I’ve ever heard, “Jen, do you want to pray about this?” The reason they were so magical was that Amy was a non-believer (at the time) and it was like “SHE UNDERSTANDS!!!” She offered her hand and I took it and we prayed silently for probably a good 10 minutes. I still get weepy thinking about it because I don’t know if Amy will ever understand how much it meant to me that she sat there and prayed with me. All I know is that she understood that prayer was important in my life at the time and she wanted to help me in a way that was meaningful to me. Other of my friends would ask me to pray with them (also non-believers at the time though some have come to Christ since our graduation) and though I’d be judicious in my wording, it was still an affirmation of my faith and in a way saying that they understood the power prayer could have. Saying grace was a way I could witness to people about my faith and it was an expression of my dependence on God for everything.
I heard a lot about being intentional and praying VERY audibly in restaurants as a way of witnessing. (By “VERY audibly”, I’m talking a voice level 3-4 times above normal.) I think that instead of praying so loudly that others DEFINITELY hear us (cf. Luke 18:9-14), we should pray as we normally do and let people notice us. Believe me… they WILL and I’ve gotten comments on it even when I’ve prayed silently to myself at $tarbuck$ (literally waiting for the Lactaid to kick in). I remember the impact it made on me as a newly-minted Christian to see two people praying over their bear claws at $tarbuck$ and I think that it can have similar impacts on other people.
My $0.02 for what it is worth.