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Saying grace in public

How do you feel about saying grace in public? I’m generally pretty cautious about it: our society is not Christian and I don’t see it as a particularly effective witness. When Arthur and I go out, if we say grace, we tend to be pretty subtle about it, or make it look like a natural part of our conversation. 

Today we took out SAH buddies to our favourite dumpling place in Melbourne. Seriously, if you live in Melbourne, you have to try Dumpling Specialist. The Xiao Long Bao is a flavour explosion! (It’s like Hu Tong – but cheaper and you don’t have to book a week in advance!) With 10 future missionaries all eating together, I guess public grace was going to happen and to be honest, it made me a little uncomfortable – a long prayer as we bowed our heads when our conversation had been pretty lively up to that point. We were some of the only people there, though, and I was grateful for that.

However, when I went up to pay for our meal, it was clear that we’d been noticed. The owner asked me if we’d all just come from church. I explained how we’d all been at different churches but were studying together so met up for lunch. It turns out, he’s not a Christian, but his wife is. She doesn’t speak much English so he translated for her. She’d seen us saying grace and had said ‘Amen’ with us. She was hugely encouraged to meet other Christians and, in fact, so was her husband! We chatted about her church and I tried out the few Chinese words I knew.

My worry has been that public grace is offensive, or at least looks a bit ‘holier than thou’. And I still wouldn’t say it if I was sitting at Tiba’s (our favourite for Lebanese – owned by Muslims, and the whole serving staff stops and disappears at prayer time) or if I was out with non-Christian friends. But today, it was helpful for at least one person.

When do you think public grace is appropriate?

How do you gauge when to be public with Christian idiosyncrasies like saying grace?

Categories: Bits Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.

4 replies

  1. I’m similarly reluctant, for many of the same reasons. My rule of thumb is to do grace, in public, but to make sure you’re not keeping busy waitstaff waiting around while your heads are bowed and you’re ignoring them. I’m always watching the people who are going to be delivering the meals.

    It seems that grace is always said in the window after the first meal arrives but before the rest are served, I reckon you should do it earlier than that, or after everyone has meals, that’d kill some of the awkwardness.

  2. I do it. To be honest, I’m not totally sure I follow your reasons not to do it. I don’t do it as a witness, I do it because that’s what I do. I’m not concerned by taking 15 seconds of people’s time to give thanks to God. If I’m not embarrassed, then there is no awkwardness. Wait staff are paid to wait, and they will.
    I think it will look offensive or holier than thou if you make look that way. But it doesn’t have to.
    And if the Muslims can pray, you can too.
    But maybe I’m weird.

  3. “How do you feel about saying grace in public? I’m generally pretty cautious about it: our society is not Christian and I don’t see it as a particularly effective witness. When Arthur and I go out, if we say grace, we tend to be pretty subtle about it, or make it look like a natural part of our conversation. ”

    I’m with Fiona. I don’t see it as a witnessing activity at all. (and, bluntly, someone attempting to do so sounds suspiciously Matt 6:5ish)

  4. Like Fiona, I do it – so I don’t NOT do it in different surrounds (though how I do it might differ). My Muslim friends have challenged me in all kinds of ways about making my prayer more public. But that would take a blog in itself to unpack, and this is just a comment.

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