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This is sort of related this other question about holding hands when praying before a meal. However this question is more generally about the praying itself.

When looking at the origin of Christianity, it seems that it has some features that are carryovers from Judaism. One example is the belief of an atoning sacrifice given instead of sins (other religions may have the concept of sacrifices but typically to attempt to gain favor of a deity, as opposed to cover for sins).

However I have not been able to find any examples from the Bible showing that people prayed before eating, or that it was even required to do so.

What would be the origin of this tradition?

marked as duplicate by Nathaniel, Lee Woofenden, curiousdannii, Flimzy, Mr. Bultitude Jul 15 '16 at 19:16

This question has been asked before and already has an answer. If those answers do not fully address your question, please ask a new question.

  • @Nathaniel I had already linked that other question to this question and explained why this is different. That question did not answer my question. See the first paragraph. – x457812 Jul 14 '16 at 19:00
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    The one I linked is different – check it out. – Nathaniel Jul 14 '16 at 19:01
  • Thanks @Nataniel, now I am not sure why I did not find it. Yes you are correct it is the same question and this can be closed if desired. – x457812 Jul 14 '16 at 19:04
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    No worries, I didn't find it initially either. If you don't have the option to close it yourself anymore (it would be at the top of your question), it will be closed soon by a few high-rep users, or a moderator. Thanks! – Nathaniel Jul 14 '16 at 19:05
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It appears to be a custom that predates establishment of the Christian religion, but you can find a scriptural example in 1 Corinthians 11:23-25(KJV)

That the Lord Jesus the same night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me.

A more modern rendering: (NAB)

23 * For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread,
24 and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.”
25 In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes.

In current Catholic practice, for example, the Grace said before a meal is a form of being thankful (albeit in somewhat stilted language):

Bless us oh Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive, through thy bounty

There is a deeper tradition involved in the Greek and Roman churches where the meal (the Eucharistic meal, the Lord's Supper) is by its name a communal prayer, and a communal act of thanksgiving. Prayers of thanksgiving well predate Christian practice, in the Psalms. As instructed in the current Catholic teaching ...

2588 The Psalter's many forms of prayer take shape both in the liturgy of the Temple and in the human heart. Whether hymns or prayers of lamentation or thanksgiving, whether individual or communal, whether royal chants, songs of pilgrimage or wisdom meditations, the Psalms are a mirror of God's marvelous deeds in the history of his people, as well as reflections of the human experiences of the Psalmist.

There is also the admonition from the Apostle Paul: Pray constantly.

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18.

16 Rejoice always. 17 Pray without ceasing. 18 In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

An allusion to giving thanks before a meal also comes from Romans 14:6

Whoever observes the day, observes it for the Lord. Also whoever eats, eats for the Lord, since he gives thanks to God; while whoever abstains, abstains for the Lord and gives thanks to God.

Matthew 15:34-36 is another example Jesus demonstrating the giving of thanks before eating

34 Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” “Seven,” they replied, “and a few fish.” 35 He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds*.

While that doesn't confirm the origin of this custom, @toothbrush points to a Jewish thanksgiving custom/prayer thought to be the thanksgiving that Jesus used:

(@Toothbrush)These passages reference the Jewish blessing (There are also other blessings pronounced for other foods.)

  • for bread (ברוך אתה יהוה>אלוהינו מלך העולם המוציא לחם מן הארץ; Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth)

  • for wine (ברוך אתה יהוה אלוהינו מלך העולם בורא פרי הגפן — Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who creates the fruit of the vine).

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There are numerous biblical examples of this that serve as a basis for the practice.

At the feeding of the 5000:

Matthew 14:19 (ESV)
Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

At the feeding of the 4000:

Matthew 15:35–36 (ESV)
35 And directing the crowd to sit down on the ground, 36 he took the seven loaves and the fish, and having given thanks he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds.

At the Last Supper:

Luke 24:30 (ESV)
When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.

And during Paul's journey to Rome:

Acts 27:35 (ESV)
And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.

  • All of these passages reference the Jewish blessing for bread (ברוך אתה יהוה אלוהינו מלך העולם המוציא לחם מן הארץ — Blessed are You, LORD our God, King of the universe, Who brings forth bread from the earth). There are also other blessings pronounced for other foods. See en.wikipedia.org/wiki/…. – Toothbrush Jul 15 '16 at 15:00
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The specific practice of a prayer of thanksgiving associated with a meal can be found in 1 Timothy (emphasis added):

1 Timothy 4:1-5 (ESV)

Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, through the insincerity of liars whose consciences are seared, who forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the word of God and prayer.

Paul is saying that all foods are acceptable if received with thanksgiving, and this thanksgiving is explicitly associated with prayer.

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