One night, a guy I work with came over to our house for dinner with his wife. We put our kids to bed, had some small talk and then sat down to eat. But with everything laid out on the table and all the food staring back up at us, something incredibly awkward happened. We didn’t know if they were Christian, and we didn’t want to force a prayer on them. So we all just looked at each other, until the tension mounted enough that my wife threw herself on the salad grenade and took a first bite, thus breaking the invisible prayer seal on the meal.
As the night went on, they talked about where they went to church and we all started sharing about our faith. We didn’t talk about the pre-dinner prayer train wreck because we were all so embarrassed. But I couldn’t help thinking, “What could I do to prevent that from happening again in the future?”
1. Strategically place a cross-stitched Bible Verse
Few things say, “I love Jesus” like a cross-stitched Bible verse. With better foyer management, my wife and I could have sidestepped the whole event by simply hanging up a framed version of “As for me and my house, we will praise the Lord.” (Jeremiah 29:11, Proverbs 3:5-6 and John 3:16 also work well.) My friends would have walked in the house, immediately known we were Christian and probably bowed their heads instinctively in anticipation of the dinner prayer.
2. Plan a mid-Bible study interruption
We could have laid out a really big, complicated-looking Bible study on the kitchen table right before my friends came over. Then when they knocked, I could have run to the door and sheepishly apologized about the mess. “You just caught us in the middle of a Bible study. Sorry about that, just doing a little worshipping and reading of God’s holy word.” If they replied with, “Oh really, what study are you doing?” Then we would have been cleared for a fantastic prayer before dinner. If they replied with, “We hate the Bible so much,” we probably would have skipped the prayer.
3. Pull an extreme prayer fake out
The best way to say a prayer before a meal is to do something outlandish and then pull it back a notch. If you say, “Please hold hands. We like to sing a few hymns before every meal,” your friends will instantly panic. Then you can reassure them, “I’m just kidding. We don’t do that. We’re just going to pray. No big deal.” They’ll be so happy that they don’t have to sing at your kitchen table that they’ll gladly bow their heads in prayer.
4. Let your children handle it.
Even people who don’t like God can see the cuteness of a little kid singing, “God our Father, God our Father, we thank You” or some other kid-style prayer. I should have woken up our kids, brought them downstairs and said, “Sing the prayer you learned at school for our friends.” They would have done their thing, and I would have then put the little ringers back up into bed. I know what you’re thinking: “But Jon, we don’t have kids.” No problem. Just pay some neighborhood kids to come pray. Pretty simple solution actually.
OK, maybe that last one is a little out there. The idea of hiring children in your neighborhood to come bless your food is probably going to get you in trouble with both local and state authorities. Maybe you should just say to your guests, “Do you mind if I pray?” If they do, they’ll let you know. If they don’t, go for it. That’s far more honest and will save you from needing to learn how to cross stitch before you have people over for dinner. Which is kind of an added bonus.
Has that ever happened to you?