Spiritual Disciplines and Giving Thanks

What are "spiritual disciplines"? That term gets tossed around quite a bit during the season of Lent. A spiritual discipline is any habit or activity done with intention that helps us be more "in touch" with our spirituality and with God. During Lent, many of us choose one discipline (like fasting, prayer, self-denial, service to the marginalized, etc.) as a focus in order to integrate it into our lives and become more spiritually connected. It doesn't really matter which of the disciplines you choose for your Lenten focus. What matters is that you practice it on a consistent basis for the 40 days of Lent.

One discipline I have found to be particularly meaningful is the practice of giving thanks for meals. It doesn't have to be done in a public or in a showy way (in fact scripture specifically instructs that our prayers should be private, see Matthew 6:5-6). However it is important that it be done with intentionality. You don't have to bow your head or join hands at the table (although there is certainly nothing wrong with doing those things) or make a big deal about it, just offer up a word or thought of gratitude.

I think it's great to be thankful that we have food on the table. But what I really connect with is the realization at each meal that there are many people who are instrumental in delivering this food to me. I try to remember to be grateful for the farmers who grow the food, the workers who harvest the food, nature for supplying the sun and the rain to nourish the food, the people who process and package the food, the truck drivers who ferry the food to the store, the workers in the store who stock the food, the clerk who puts the food in the bag, etc., even the government workers who try to keep our food supplies safe. A meal becomes almost a song of praise to God for the beautiful system for food we have here in the United States. It's not flawless, but there are lots of people who work in concert to feed us. Saying thanks before a meal should encompass something greater than just being thankful that you are not hungry. Now, I don't necessarily go through that entire list of people in my mind every time I pray my thanks at mealtime, but I do try to be conscious and aware of how many people are involved in getting my food to the table.

As you sit down to your next meal, offer up a little prayer of gratitude not only for the abundance of your food, but also for all the folks who get it to you. If you do this for the period of Lent, it will grow in your heart an appreciation for others who help to provide nourishment for your body, and this in turn, will nourish you on your spiritual journey.

Teresa Angle-Young is providing articles about the Christian season of Lent and ways we all can join in the practice of Lent. She is a pastor who is simply seeking God, loving neighbors, and trying to follow Jesus.