“6 And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the people. 7 They also had a few small fish; and after He had blessed them, He ordered these to be served as well.” – Mk 8:6,7
When we talk about prayer and eating, we hear it called “saying the blessing”. Or when the Lord’s Supper is being prayed over, people will ask God to “blessed this bread” or “bless this cup”. What does that mean?
In the passage above we see a clue. When he first prayed, it said he gave thanks for the bread. Then he took the fish and blessed them. Is giving thanks the way to have the food blessed? And if it is blessed, what does that mean?
Paul says something in 1 Corinthians 14 that gives us some insight. “Otherwise if you bless in the spirit only, how will the one who fills the place of the ungifted say the ‘Amen’ at your giving of thanks?“, v16. It sounds like the “blessing” and the “giving of thanks” are one and the same, or at least are closely related.
When we think of something being “blessed”, we think of something like a gift that is given. God blesses us with salvation and we bless others by kindness and christian love. “You blessed us with your gift of love and just by being here”, someone might say. So what is the gift when giving a prayer of thanks for food or over the Lord’s Supper? The gift or blessing is from God which we acknowledge in a prayer of thanks.
Paul indicates this is the case when talking about food that is given to be eaten. He said to Timothy, “4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude 5 for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.“, 1 Tim. 4.
When we sit down at the table, we stop and say “grace” or “say the blessing” by giving thanks to God for what we are about to eat. And the eating of it is holy and acceptable to God because it is received with gratitude. We ought to give thanks to God for all of our blessings, including the meals He gives to sustain our physical lives.
Whether it is Jesus, or the assembled church about to eat the Lord’s Supper, or whether it is a family seated at the dinner table, we ought to give thanks for it.
If we say we are “blessing the bread”, we are giving thanks for it. This corrects the idea that many have at the Lord’s Supper that the bread and the cup are somehow altered in substance and supernaturally blessed to become holy substances. They remain bread and fruit of the vine. But the eating of them is sanctified and blessed by God when we give Him thanks. So at the Lord’s Supper, be sure to say “thank you” for the bread and for the cup. Then they will be blessed.