Picture or a Prayer?

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

– 1 Thess. 5:16-18


As I sat down to eat a burger the other day, it looked so good that I – consumed it immediately? Nope. Was overcome with gratefulness and prayed? Nope. Wanted to take a picture? Yep.


To be honest, I’m not even sure what I was going to do with the picture. There isn’t anyone in particular that I wanted to send it to. I wasn’t eating with anyone, so this wasn’t an occasion to remember. Yet, my first instinct, my natural reflex wasn’t nature at all. Hunger+delicious hamburger (should) = consumption, right? But there is another nature at work here – sin.

Before we jump on the “pray before you eat” bandwagon, though, we should consider the rebuke I received as a teenager from my atheist youth pastor. (Try not to dwell on that combination too much. He was the best they could find for our small country church, and I’m sure he claimed to be a believer at first.) We were out to lunch one day, and I asked if we should say a prayer before we ate. He actually raised his voice when he challenged, “Where in the Bible does it say to pray before meals?” Then he returned to eating his sandwich.

He may have turned out to be an unbeliever, but other faithful pastors have posed similar questions. Perhaps you’ve heard statements like, “If the only time you pray is right before you eat, there’s a problem with your prayer life.” Or, “Don’t try to make up for your lack of praying by making lengthy petitions prior to meals. People are hungry!”

Perhaps more at the heart of the issue is the story a pastor once shared regarding  his struggle over a beloved In-and-Out burger. It went something like this, “I had my favorite burger the other day, a double-double. I was so hungry and excited that I started eating as soon as it was in my hands! As I was eating, I thought, ‘Thank you God for these little pleasures. Every good thing comes from you!’ But then I realized I hadn’t prayed before eating! But then again, wasn’t that what I was doing?”

The battle isn’t between pictures and prayers. It’s between entitlement and gratefulness.

Can you take pictures for the sake of self-promotion and social media? Absolutely. But can you also pray out of cold ritual or to draw attention to yourself? We can indeed.

So, the next time you feel the urge to take a picture of something (a meal, a car, a child, a sunset, a traffic jam, a hospital bed, etc.) let that be a reminder to pray and thank God for His blessings. And since we’re drawn to post on social media so often, this little habit will bring us a lot closer to every Christian’s goal of:

“Rejoic[ing] always, pray[ing] without ceasing, [and] giv[ing] thanks in all circumstances.”

After all, “this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”


-Jason Stiles

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