Saying Grace Without Words
Although I am not very good at remembering it for other meals, I try to say grace when I sit down for breakfast in the morning. It is a short prayer, similar to the kind I grew up with: "Dear Lord, thank you for this food, and for your many blessings. In Jesus name, Amen." On so many mornings, I just rush through it, barely even considering what I am saying. This morning I caught myself doing just that, so I started over, and tried to pay attention to the words. To my surprise, nothing came. I just felt a calm, wordless, "being with God" moment that seemed to stretch for a while.
Looking back on that moment now, I think about my use of that short prayer. While I didn't need those words this morning, are they what made this morning possible? Quakers have historically looked down on empty rituals and sacraments, but I have to wonder how we can really judge if a ritual is empty. When I rush through grace without thinking about the words, is that empty? I did remember to take a moment to thank God, even if I may not have been too conscious of it. I think a lot of it is your attitude in why you are doing the thing, and not totally how you are doing it. That is, if you are doing it because you think it is something you have to do in order to go to heaven, then perhaps whatever you are doing really is an empty ritual. If you are doing something in order to deepen your relationship with God, however, I believe there is some value, even if you aren't "fully there". Perhaps these unconscious rituals, done for the right reason, are like little drops of water that eventually wear away stone. You may not perceive any wear, until one day, maybe over breakfast, a huge chunk falls away.