The repetitive phrases in prayer issue comes up in Church from time to time. President Ezra Taft Benson, whose teachings we studied in 2015, taught:
“Our prayers should be meaningful and pertinent. We should avoid using the same phrases in each prayer. Any of us would become offended if a friend said the same words to us each day, treated the conversation as a chore, and could hardly wait to finish in order to turn on the television set and forget us. …”
As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’ve been taught all my life to avoid repetitive phrases when praying to Heavenly Father, yet sometimes I catch myself doing it. The worst culprit for me is mealtime prayers, so I brainstormed a little bit about how to avoid repetitive phrases when blessing the food.
1. Slow Down.
Sometimes when blessing the food, we are quite hungry, so it’s easy to say a fast prayer. Before blessing the food, we should take a deep breath, and pray with a slightly slower pace. Pause briefly between sentences. The food will still be warm and tasty and fresh, and the prayer will be more sincere if not said quickly.
2. Be Specific.
We should thank Heavenly Father for little things we’re looking forward to during the meal. We all LOVE food; we LOVE to eat good food. So why do some of our prayers on our food sound like we’re thanking Heavenly Father for the color beige? Thank Him for the chicken that smells so good. And the rolls with butter. The ice cold water. The hot apple pie. The sugar snap peas. The salt and pepper. The vitamin C in the orange juice that protects our health. We hear children get enthusiastic in prayer about little things like how yummy something tastes, but as adults we become too cool, I guess. Don’t be cool; be thankful!
3. Be Thankful for the Whole Process.
The journey of food can be quite extensive! By thanking Heavenly Father for different steps in the process, it can help us (and children) to not take our food for granted. We can include in mealtime prayers an expression of gratitude for the farmers, the grocers, and the truck drivers who helped the food get to our table. We can express gratitude for refrigeration, stoves, and microwaves that make mealtime faster and food safer. We can express gratitude for the money to buy it, and the person who spent time preparing the meal.
4. Ignore Your “Food Guilt” for a Minute.
Sometimes when we hurry through a prayer on the food, it might be that we feel guilty about our food choices. (I’m all for making positive changes in our diets; I’m consciously eating more vegetables lately.) But if we have made a choice to have pizza and ice cream for dinner, we can still focus on what is positive about it in the mealtime prayer. It’s delicious, and that’s uplifting. We’re perhaps enjoying it with family or friends, and that’s wonderful. It is keeping us from going hungry or starving. It has nutrients that we need. It gives us energy. Put any “food guilt” aside for a moment, and be truly thankful that you have food, period. It might be more productive to save any “food guilt” for other times, like when planning meals, shopping for food, or during our personal prayers.
5. Believe He Does Literally “Bless” Your Food.
At some other time than mealtime, think about the consequences of eating food that makes us sick. Most of us have occasionally had a case of food poisoning, and it isn’t pleasant. (It probably isn’t best to bring these up in too much detail during prayer, because it might ruin everyone’s appetite.) Think about the other ways He can bless it, such as helping our bodies to absorb the vitamins, or helping our digestion so we don’t have a stomach ache that keeps us up at night. We can include in our prayers the things in our lives that we need energy for, such as going to school, or taking care of children.