Have you ever wondered why so many people pray before they eat their food? Where does that tradition come from? I am not a great follower of tradition for the sake of tradition, but when I understand the origin of the tradition and I can relate to it, then I enjoy following the tradition. So I like to pray before I eat, especially if I eat with someone else.
This tradition, which I grew up with, has its roots in the New Testament. We read often how Jesus blessed the food prior to eating with His disciples, on so many occasions.
Mat 26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”
Both Mark and Luke capture this story: Mark 14:22 and Luke 22:19 and recorded those famous words, which is the basis of communion. Jesus first gave thanks to the bread, then He broke the bread and then He shared the bread amongs his disciples.
It seems breaking of bread together quickly became a tradition in the early church.
Acts 2:42 They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 2:46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,
Acts 20:7 On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.
I believe there is alot of power in breaking bread together. Eating dinner as a family together, inviting friends over and pray, eat, love each other has proven to be one of the best influences on children’s lives.
The early church tradition was established by the example of Jesus himself. Some of the disciples struggled to believe Jesus was really resurrected, they did not even recognized Him when He appeared among them, but when He did what He always did, their eyes opened:
Luk 24: 30-35 When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. 31 Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. 32 They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” 33 They got up and returned at once to Jerusalem. There they found the Eleven and those with them, assembled together 34 and saying, “It is true! The Lord has risen and has appeared to Simon.” 35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.
I found a few verses in the Old Testament refferring to a morsel of bread – that is a piece of bread after it was broken and I found that it referred to comfort to the heart and strength. Look at these few verses:
Gen 18:5 And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said.
Jud 10:5 And it came to pass on the fourth day, when they arose early in the morning, that he rose up to depart: and the damsel’s father said unto his son in law, Comfort thine heart with a morsel of bread, and afterward go your way.
1 Sam 28:22 Now therefore, I pray thee, hearken thou also unto the voice of thine handmaid, and let me set a morsel of bread before thee; and eat, that thou mayest have strength, when thou goest on thy way.
If bread is broken, the pieces will comfort us and strengthen us. I think the body of Christ also comforts us and strengthens us.
Let us look into other passages in the New Testament where bread was broken. Both Matthew and Mark recorded the two miracles of bread and fish. Each time Jesus prayed for the food, then He broke it and then divided it – each time more baskets of left overs was collected a the original amount that they started off with and inbetween thousands were fed. Two similar miracles. Pray, break, eat.
Mat 14:19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.
similar passage in Mark 8:19
Mat 15:36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.
similar passage in Mark 8:6
Do you think the miracles could have happened without the breaking of bread? I don’t think so, I think only with the act of breaking, multiplication happened miraculously. When we break bread with friends, pray, have communion the miracle of multiplication can happen. I think in the same way, the ultimate miracle happened when Jesus’s body was broken on the cross. Then the miracle of God’s love for ALL sinners was multiplied. now ALL of us can be filled with His body, His bread.
1Cor10: 16-17 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?17 Because there is one loaf, we, who are many, are one body, for we all share the one loaf.
Now all of us can share in his love AND there is extra left over in multiple baskets for generations to come. Ephesians also sum it up nicely.
Eph 3:6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
The breaking of bread resulted in a miracle. The miracle of everlasting love, of comfort and of strength.
Pray, Break, Eat.