How my family says grace without bringing capital R Religion into it

Guest post by Helen Jane Hearn

Saying grace
By: Zechariah JudyCC BY 2.0

I’ve always struggled with whether to pray before dinner. I wanted a way to say thanks for the food and acknowledge Ms. Earth’s contribution to our meal without bringing capital R Religion into it.

Something a little more than,
“Rub a dub dub, thanks for the grub.”

And something a little less than,
“And these thy gifts from thy bounty…”

As these things happen, we found our groove naturally.

Every night before dinner, we hold hands around the table, the oldest, the youngest (well, sometimes the youngest, James and I. We list the people we’re thankful for.

The oldest usually adds herself a few times.
(I’d add her a few times too.)

I’ve been on the lookout though, for non-religious-pre-dinner thank you’s that bring in the food, the animals, the vegetables and the community we’re going to share and I’m coming up short.

All the pre-meal graces seem to be very religious.
And that doesn’t quite meet my needs.

It doesn’t make it any easier that to help all our guests feel more comfortable, I replaced “grace” with “toasts.” Toasts keep folks of all faiths at ease. But they’re not exactly the sentiment I’m looking for, you dig?

So I’ve written my own non-religious pre-meal thank you graces. They’re not toasts, they’re not prayers (exactly) they’re just a way to experience gratitude for the meal, the community and the nourishment you’re about to share…

We end our grace with a hearty “AMEN.”
It feels right to our family.

But I’d also recommend a hearty, “THANK YOU” or “YO HO HO.”
Actually, kicking off the meal with a “YO HO HO,” sounds kind of awesome.


We are so grateful for this food,
it restores our strength,
it heals our bodies,
it fuels our brains.

We are so grateful for this time,
to renew our spirit,
to share our trials,
to find new strength.


All that we have is a gift.
May we be thankful.
May we celebrate.
May we share.


For our friends,
for our families,
for our meal,
we are thankful.

For life,
for healing,
for joy,
we are thankful.


Thanks to the earth for the soil.
Thanks to the sky for the rains.
Thanks to the farmers for the harvest.
Thanks to our friends for the love.


May this meal we’re about to share help our spirits shine brighter.
May this brightness send darkness away and
warm the hearts of strangers.


Comments on How my family says grace without bringing capital R Religion into it

  1. Thank you for this! I will be using this at my wedding, and hopefully around my table for many years to come with my little family.

  2. For food….and friends…..and family…..we give thee thanks Oh Lord. Amen

    There’s a few more verses to the Johnny Appleseed prayer/song – do a google search – ….excellent to use at a banquet if a lot of people know the words.

  3. I’ve always loved and used the grace from the cartoon Madeline: We love our bread, we love our butter, but most of all, we love each other 🙂

  4. Call me confused, religious, or what you will, but this is confusing and disturbing to me. How is it that people who refuse to acknowledge a higher entity feel the spiritual need to offer thanks to a non-existent benefactor?

    • Hi Bob,

      Long answer: Society, community, and family are hardly nonexistent. They are right there in front of us, to see, to support/be supported by, and to care about.

      Thanks are an expression – not just of gratitude – but of affirmation of the value of what has been received or benefitted from.

      A spirit of thankfulness – even if there is no benefactor to thank – helps develop a sense of humility and appreciation of good things and people in our lives. Treasures should not be taken for granted because life can take them away so easily. It’s all part of leading an ethical, examined life.

      Also, keep in mind that spirituality doesn’t need a house of worship. It lives in the human heart.


      Short answer: Because even if you’re a nonbeliever, you don’t want to act like an entitled twit.

      I can understand being confused. But disturbed? Really?

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