Nearly half of Jesus’ prayers include praise or thanksgiving.
Samuel C. Degner
A few bites into the meal, the child at the dinner table says, “Wait . . . did we pray yet?” Dad looks at Mom. Mom looks at the kids. The kids look back at Dad. Everyone sees the same uncertain expression. No one remembers.
Giving thanks before or after a meal is a routine for many of us—too routine, perhaps. It’s a good habit, but we may not always think about the well-worn words we’re saying. They become only a brief prelude to the main event.
Jesus gave thanks for daily bread
Giving thanks was part of Jesus’ routine too. Nearly half of Jesus’ prayers include praise or thanksgiving. On several different occasions, we see Jesus “blessing” or giving thanks for food. It seems so natural and so casual that it would be easy to miss this important act, especially considering the kinds of things that happened afterward. Loaves and fishes multiplied to feed crowds of thousands (John 6:11; Mark 8:6). Divine body and blood were passed around the Passover table (Matthew 26:26-29). The mysterious travel companion revealed himself over supper in Emmaus (Luke 24:30). The prayers that preceded these miraculous events could easily be overlooked.
Let’s look a little closer at one of those events. Let’s sit down for supper with Jesus. Sorry, there are no chairs, no table on this hillside; a spot on the grass will have to do. You weren’t invited? That’s okay; neither were most of tonight’s dinner guests. Look around you. Thousands of men—not to mention their wives and children—have come from the nearby villages to see Jesus. It’s getting late, and they’re getting hungry. The available menu looks much too meager: just a little bread and fish. Don’t worry. Jesus will make it stretch.
Before he does, though, he must give thanks. You might think that the outdoor setting, the famished crowds, and the sinking sun would all be valid reasons to skip this part and get right to the meal. Still, Jesus feels compelled to pray—not just out of habit or because of Jewish custom, but for the sake of his heavenly Father. You watch as he lifts his eyes to heaven and speaks words that make it clear to the crowds that the bread is a gift from God.
Jesus’ gratefulness renews our thanksgiving
It is possible that they were the same words that heads of households all over Galilee were intoning with their families that evening. Yet when the one giving thanks for bread is also the one multiplying it, something is different. When the one blessing the barley loaves also proclaims himself the Bread of Life that must be eaten for salvation, we do well to take notice!
Sure, it’s just one unrecorded sentence spoken by a Savior who taught for hours most days. But everything Jesus did and said, he did and said for us. Jesus gave thanks on our behalf for all of the gifts, great and small, that we have received from God. His words of praise to our heavenly Father make up for all the times we have asked for and enjoyed our daily bread—and so much more—without feeling or expressing gratitude. Just as the Scriptures tell us to do, Jesus prayed with thanksgiving.
“Did we pray yet?” The Father answers, “Yes!” Someone did what we sometimes forget. The Father remembers Jesus’ grateful prayers as if they came from our lips. For that we can renew our desire to give thanks!
Contributing editor Samuel Degner is pastor at Bethel, Menasha, Wisconsin.
This is the third article in a nine-part series on Jesus and his prayer life.
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Author: Samuel C. Degner
Volume 102, Number 1
Issue: January 2015
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