Saying Grace: Is it polite to ask others to pray before a meal?

by epi on March 19, 2014

Q: I have a good friend who is very religious and practices a prayer before every meal.  Every time we eat together she always asks who would like to say the prayer.  No one usually volunteers because they are not as religious as she is.  Even though I share similar values and am not offended, I do not practice a prayer before every meal. Other guests have said that being requested to pray made them feel uncomfortable because of different religions and non-religious beliefs.  Is it polite to pray before a meal with guests of other faiths?  What should I suggest to my friend so that she doesn’t put my guests on the spot?

 

A: It is of course fine to say grace before a meal, but the host should be the one to say the grace, not put her guests on the spot by asking them to pray.  Prayer can be very personal for many people and being asked to offer a grace, unprepared, is more than awkward and inhibiting for many people.  Tell your friend to simply offer a prayer herself, not to continue the practice of inviting others to do so.

 

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

polite punk March 19, 2014 at 11:26 am

Having spent much of my life in New England and now living more in the south, I find this to happen more down here.

We can all benefit from taking a moment of pause to be thankful for our dinner (regardless of whether or not, we are religious about it). Many people go without and we are fortunate. I agree that not asking to put a friend on the spot is good, but I would also wonder if it’s possible to make the grace even more universal by leaving religion out of it (when you are with friends of various faiths and non-faiths) and just state your gratitude for the food in front of you and the friends around you.

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Karen March 21, 2014 at 12:25 am

I think that sort of expectation would be offensive to those who do have a deep faith, and always have an idea or deity in mind when they pray.

I have a question about religious and non-religious households, I am a Christian and pray before I eat, but my SO is Agnostic. Should he be expected to wait until I finish my prayer before he can begin his plate, if we are sitting down for a meal?

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Jazzgirl205 March 21, 2014 at 12:15 pm

I am a Xian who prays before every meal no matter where. I make the sign of the cross and pray silently involving no one else. My dh is an atheist and he waits until I and our dd are done. By the same token, no one eats until everyone is seated with their napkins on their laps. In my family, it was considered bad manners to look ravenously eager to get at one’s food.

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S.B. March 21, 2014 at 3:15 pm

Good afternoon,

I’m having a law school graduation party, and I would like to know if anyone could recommend a book (preferably Emily Post) regarding graduation party etiquette.

Thanks,

S.B.

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bbandco. March 22, 2014 at 7:03 pm

As an atheist, if I were asked by someone who knows I’m an atheist to say grace or a prayer with them, I would feel disrespected. I do not like feeling as though someone is trying to impose their religion on me. I don’t mind if you or others with your beliefs say grace, just please don’t ask me too.

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