Many of us have heard the common table prayer. “Come Lord Jesus, be our guest; and let these gifts to us be blessed. Amen.” I’ve used that prayer on occasion myself, but more often I have been part of a gathering in which it has been used. Over the Christmas break, I heard it used a lot. It got me thinking.

What would it look like to pray that prayer and then actually live as if Jesus was your guest at the table? I’m not sure I have an answer to that, because I can’t say that I’ve ever been part of that kind of situation.

Would it mean talking about religious things all throughout the meal (but not that you would have to, in a pious sort of way, but just because Jesus is your guest and that’s what he’d want to talk about–then again, it’s an entirely relevant question to ask if we even have any sense of WHAT Jesus would want to talk about at dinner)? Would it mean doing a devotion during dinner (if so, then talk about devotions is another post altogether)?

Whatever it would mean, I’m convinced that our use of the Common Table Prayer would be signfiicantly more intentional. And our conversation and internaction immediately afterwards would probably not emerge out of what we were thinking about while we were waiting for the prayer to be finished (because even though we all participate in saying it, if it’s rote and memorized, we do it on autopilot).

This post is a question about lived theology. If we consider the Common Table Prayer as part of the grammar of our faith–in a sense, it’s just the way us Christians talk because we’re Christians–it would seem that not only our talking would reflect our Christian identity, but also our doing.

You might respond, but our doing is tainted by sin. Yes, good Sunday school answer. Now what? I’m not so much concerned with how we might justify the fact that we don’t live as Christians from the theological catch-all that is sin and the Fall. I’m concerned with the fact that all around us, in our own environment, we are each a part of large cultural communities and movements, subcultures and groups, each of which has its own particular “form of life.” And, without question and without thinking about it, we just naturally fit into where ever it is we find ourselves. And it’s really no surprise because we have been formed and shaped to do so.

Now back to the Christian life. Why, in our Christian cultural group (for lack of a better term, and realizing that there are no hard boundaries here against any of the rest of our groups) does our speaking not reflect our living. Why can Christians have a particular grammar that is descriptive of life and faith, but live by something totally different? Isn’t the Christian life about being formed to be particular people?

That’s a rhetorical question, and the answer is “yes.” Somehow, there is a sharp disconnect between what we believe it actually means to be a Christian and how in actuality Christianity is really supposed to play out. As far as I can tell, from my own personal location within the Christian context, Christianity means primarily (in the Western Christian world at least) knowing a whole set of propositions and believing correctly. There is terrific concern about being orthodox. Yet, I’m not convinced that if Christ were sitting at my dinner table, he’d be quizzing me on doctrine. I can imagine he’d be helping me constantly to conceive of life in a new way such that it was not merely a new mental image for me to ponder, but in fact it would become the way I actually see life in a second-nature, take-it-for-granted, do-it-without-thinking, sort of way. My theology would not just be my beliefs in the propositional, make-sure-they’re-orthodox sense; they would be the fundamental beliefs that shaped everything else about my life, most importantly my orientation to the world and everyone around me.

If I were that kind of person who looked at the world differently, everyone else probably wouldn’t understand me very well. They might look at me funny, wondering what’s going on. They might even think I “don’t get it.” If that’s the case, what would they think of Christ?