June 24, 2006

Praying at Denny's

We ran across a discussion a couple of months ago at Yahoo! Answers about praying in restaurants. The poster said:

"Why do people insist on saying grace at a restaurant? One of my girlfriends' best friend's husband insists that we do this. I feel that any public prayer is hypocritical and I have been brought up to feel this way. It is also forbidden in Matthew 6:5. . . ."

In this particular case, I can see one of the poster's points: nobody likes to be pressured into a hand-holding session while the "prayer leader" ad-libs a pre-meal speech.  Especially when you don't even share the guy's beliefs, and he's raising his voice to unnatural levels, and you just want to eat your cheeseburger while it's still hot.  (It's happened to us before.)

But these cases are relatively uncommon. Grace before meals usually seems humble and sincere.  Most of us do it at home. So why is it so rarely seen in restaurants? Why does it seem to break all the Rules -- especially when we punctuate it by making the sign of the cross? And most of all, in this age of the "new evangelization", when Christians are supposed to be signs of contradiction and leaven in the world, why do we accommodate the objectors?

These aren't rhetorical questions.  I'd honestly like to hear from people on all sides of this -- personal anecdotes are especially welcome.