Every evening growing up, my family would say grace before dinner. When young, it was a short grace, “Come Lord Jesus, Be Our Guest…” As my sister and I matured, our parents introduced another prayer, “Be Present at Our Table Lord…” We would always say prayers before bed which my sister and I authored. I would pray for animals, family and friends.
When the Jan and Ginger Jacobi family was ready for grace before dinner, we said the latter of my childhood graces. As our family grew, so did our grace. We encouraged each child to add a personal thanks to God and remembrance of a loved family member, two legs or four, who was no longer with us. Eventually our children moved away from home and as empty nesters, Jan and I continued our prayer before dinner. Occasionally, on any given day, one of our children will call just as we are about to dine and over the phone we ask them to join us as we say our grace. There are a few changes as now our oldest is expecting and we have added “Baby Boy Jacobi” to our litany of family and animals for which we are thankful.
For me, the tradition of prayer in our family is a time when I feel most connected to loved ones past, current and now future. I pray other times of the day, but when we are all together holding hands with guests, immediate family, or frequently just Jan and me, I experience a bond with God and family that I can duplicate few other times. This tradition of prayer and giving thanks to God for all of our blessings, and my desire to follow the path of Jesus, started for me when I was young and continues with Jan who has been steadfast in his love and commitment to God and the Episcopal church.
While Covid has put a damper on our family Sunday evening dinners, more than ever I realize the importance of our family prayer. The outdoor services we share on Sunday mornings are also an opportunity to feel closer to Jesus. While I was struggling with back pain one morning, Fr. Peter rushed up to our car and offered a healing prayer, something I had never asked for in chapel service. It was the most incredible experience as I felt the tension and anxiety melt away. Prayer is a powerful reminder that we are not alone. Jesus is always by our side. When feeling isolated and alone, say a prayer and see if you feel better, too.
Ginger has written about our dinner prayer, but we also pray separately. Sometimes when we lie in bed on a weekend morning and I don’t say anything, Ginger will look over and say, “You must be praying.” As ever, she is right, and I am running through the litany of people on my prayer list and remembering each of our departed loved ones.
I don’t think she even knows that I say my evening prayers as I am brushing my teeth. I simply thank the Lord for the gift of the day and then I repeat a scriptural story to myself.
How astounded I was last week when I saw that the very same story was the focus of Fr. Peter’s Words of Encouragement!
In my twenties, I was wandering in the wilderness, but I did turn to poetry to fill the spiritual void in my life. One that I came to love was The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. Perhaps the Lord was speaking to me in these lines of the poem.
“Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But when I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
Gliding wrapt in a brown mantle, hooded
I do not know whether a man or a woman
—But who is that on the other side of you?
Hence my introduction to Luke’s story of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. It became one of my favorite New Testament passages.
And each night before I go to bed, I retell that story to myself. After the two disciples have had dinner with Jesus, and he has been revealed to them, they hurry back to Jerusalem to tell the others. In my retelling, they continue their conversation about how their hearts were burning. When they reach Jerusalem, they rush to the upper room. There the disciples have gathered, and when they are all together, Jesus enters and says, “Peace be unto you.” I finish my version with the disciples saying “The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!”
I finish my day with a vision of the risen Lord, and then I sleep.