The norm of praying before meals is wide spread across various religions all over the world.
In Christianity, the grace prayers before meals demonstrate gratefulness towards God for the food that has been provided (by Him). In Islam, an acknowledgement in the form of a prayer is said before meals: ‘In the name of God and with God’s blessing’. Buddhists offer food to the higher beings, the teacher Buddha, the protector Dharma and the supreme guide Sangha, in their prayers before meals. The meal prayers in Hinduism refer everything including their bodies and food a part of the universal consciousness (Brahman) and hence request to grace the act of eating as a conscious reverence.
But why pray before meals? The rituals of praying before meals are deep-rooted; however there always have been gaps in practical understanding of such religious norms. A number of religious rituals such as meditation, certain types of fasting, among others have been supported scientifically but many have been disregarded too. Here I attempt to support the custom of praying before meals in the form of three arguments:
- Praying before meals can make you eat optimally.
Whether you hold hands of people sitting next to you, or you bring together your own hands to pray, whether you say the prayer aloud or you whisper in your mind, the act of praying can bring you to the now, the current moment. You become conscious of your surroundings and you become conscious of your thoughts. If you are conscious about the food that you are about to eat, you become aware about the extent of the hunger, your likes and your dislikes and the whole process of eating. This could help in eating optimum amounts of food and can lead to a wholesome and satisfying diet.
- Praying before meals can lead to effective digestion.
In continuation with the first point, if you are more conscious about the food that you are eating and less involved in non-food related thoughts and actions, you are focusing your bodily energy towards digestion (by exempting from energy-usage in anything else). In absence of other activities, your brain is directed only towards triggering the necessary pathways for effective digestion.
- Praying before meals can make food more delicious
If you are conscious while eating, you tend to appreciate the source. You become aware about the flavors and the ingredients. Your senses are more active and results in giving you a complete culinary experience. You evolve to understand the making of the food and are able to enjoy the taste more heartily.
The form of the prayer is perhaps not as necessary as the result of becoming more conscious and aware while eating, however it does give a meaning to the whole process. I hope that Science explains the biological effects of praying and does not allow the act of praying before meals become extinct under the mask of atheism.