John 6:11 – “Jesus then took the loaves, and having given thanks, He distributed to those who were seated; likewise also of the fish as much as they wanted.”
Deuteronomy 8:10 – “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD your God for the good land which He has given you.” NASU
The Custom in the Middle East in Biblical times was that people, without fail, gave thanks before eating and would usually give thanks after the meal. It was initially done in recognition of God’s provision and an expression of gratitude. It, like so many things, evolved into a religious or societal ritual as is often the case today! I know many who would never dream of eating a meal without ‘saying grace’. I practice praying over the food I am about to eat.
In those days everyone at the table would repeat the words of the host as he gave thanks. If a prophet were present he would be expected to take the lead in the prayer and bless the food giving thanks as is described in 1 Samuel 9:13 – “…he must bless the sacrifice; afterward those who are invited will eat.” It was customary but initially, it was far more than custom and a true recognition of God’s provision and their gratitude.
When Jesus fed the 5,000 we read that “after Jesus had given thanks the food was distributed…” In the feeding of the 4,000, Matthew is careful to include the fact that Jesus gave thanks before anyone ate. The Jews were incredibly conscious of the fact that all they had came from God and willingly expressed their gratitude. Sadly, for many then and now, it is nothing more than a religious or societal ritual not a genuine expression of gratitude.
They also customarily gave thanks at the end of the meal as is reflected in Deuteronomy 8:10 – “When you have eaten and are satisfied, you shall bless the LORD….” Gratitude demands acknowledgment of not only the provision but the provider. I would suggest that if you ‘say grace’ and pray over your meal without really giving thought or having true gratitude in your heart it is more of an insult to God than an act He will receive and recognize with blessing.
Therefore make your words be true expressions of the gratitude of your heart and always remember that all we are and have has its source in God. In Him, we live and move and have our being. Blessings upon you as you go through your day!