Nicolaes Maes "Old Woman at Prayer", known as "Prayer without End"
Food has always been recognized as the unmerited and sacred gift from God. Grace is the divine reality underlying all religion and faith. Thanks for God's bounty is our common human experience. Milk is the first gift of life for the just-born infant's in response to its sucking instinct and food need. Therefore, our expressing thankfulness that reaches immediately back to our first minutes of life, is something inherently cognate within us. In every culture there are sacred beliefs that require honoring the giver of life, God or the divine principle, through acknowledging the sacred gift of food. By admitting us to his table, God became bound to us in a unique relationship. And we experience the love and beauty of that.
From the Bible: "And thou shall eat and be satisfied, and bless the Lord your God'' (Deut. 8:10).
A verse from the Koran: "Eat of your Lord's provision, and give thanks to Him'' (34:15).
Bismillah is never omitted before a Muslim meal, and after the meal: Alhamdulillah il-lathi at'amana wasaqana waja'alana Muslimeen - is the equivalent of saying grace. The Prophet is clear on the motivation for saying grace:"If you are thankful, surely I will increase you'' (Koran 14:7).
Sufi meal Prayer of Inayat Khan:
O Thou, the Sustainer of our bodies, hearts, and souls,
Bless all that we thankfully receive.
According to Vedic texts, one should offer all food as a sacrifice to God: "All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me."( Bhagavad Gita, 9.27)
Hindu Prayer before partaking food :
Brahmaarpanam Brahma Havir
Brahmaagnau Brahmanaa Hutam
Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam
Brahma Karma Samaadhinaha
The act of offering is Brahman. The offering itself is Brahman.The offering is done by Brahman in the sacred fire which is Brahman. He alone attains Brahman who, in all actions, is fully absorbed in Brahman. (BG, 4:24)
In the Hindu belief, food offered to God becomes prasad (sanctified or observed as holy), something to be eaten that was blessed by God.
Also, offering food is one of the oldest and most common rituals in Buddhism, Shinto, Taoism. Meals in Japan traditionally begin with the phrase itadakimasu (I humbly receive). Chinese Duo xie (多谢 - a thousand thanks) is the cultural evolution of worship chanted to the many food gods of Chinese antiquity.
The Jewish liturgy is full of the idea of divine grace interceding to aid humanity. Grace is Ahabah Rabbah and thanksgiving - Shemoneh Esreh.
In Christianity, the bread in the Lord's Prayer "Give us today our daily bread", there was given a special meaning. Bread follows from and symbolizes the Kingdom of Lord.
Certainly, Grace before meals and Thanks to God after meals were not idle prayers. There is an direct connection between gratitude and sacrifice. "Food and the eater: that is the extent of the whole world". (Brhadaranyaka Upanishad, 1.4.6)
These prayers talk to us with the wisdom of the ages and teach us that we are all one family, all one mystical soul.
May you, your family, all the creatures of this beautiful world, may all beings everywhere may all be fed.
May we live in a way that makes us worthy to receive it.
May all be healed.
May all be loved.