Would you like to get a 15 percent discount at a restaurant if you pray before your meal? Believe it or not, that’s just what one restaurant does for its customers.
If you happen to be passing through Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and stop to eat at Mary’s Gourmet Diner, that’s just what you’ll get when you pay for your meal. If you bow in prayer before your meal, you’ll likely see “15% discount for praying in public” printed on the receipt.
Whether it’s a Christian prayer or a moment of meditation, co-owner Mary Haglund just loves seeing customers show “an attitude of gratitude” when they sit down to eat. Haglund believes that prayer and being thankful is good for everyone. She sees the discount as a “gift” the restaurant can give to those who enjoy the food they serve.
Evidently, it really does pay to pray—at least at Mary’s Gourmet Diner.
Without questioning Mary’s motive for offering this “gift,” we must keep in mind that we’re not supposed to pray just for the sake of saving money.
Jesus gave us some guidelines for prayer when he distinguished between the proper way to pray and the improper way the scribes and Pharisees prayed:
Matthew 23:1-36 (Mark 12:28-30; Luke 20:45-47) records several woes Jesus pronounced against these religious leaders one of which included sharp criticism of their prayers: Matthew 23: 14 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses, and for a pretense you make long prayers; therefore you will receive greater condemnation. (New American Standard Bible, NASB.)
The scribes and Pharisees made a show of their prayers as well other acts of worship. They loved to appear religious but their hearts were not sincere.
Jesus wanted his followers to know that prayer is meant to be personal, sincere, and honest: Matthew 6: 5 “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. 6 But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you. 7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. (NASB)
Jesus is not saying we should not offer a prayer in public but that it should be done with the right motive. God knows our hearts. We are to express our attitude of gratitude to him whether it’s before a meal or on any other occasion.
Sadly, some Christians are afraid to pray at a restaurant for fear some will look at them oddly or that they will be accused of doing it for show. But we do not need to be concerned with what others think as long as we are praying in the right frame of mind Jesus taught us to have.
Even Jesus publicly “blessed the food” when he fed the five thousand (Matthew 14:13-21) and he didn’t seem to mind others watching him.
So, if you ever do pray and get a 15 per cent discount on your meal like at Mary’s Gourmet Diner, consider that a blessing, too. And give God sincere thanks. Oh, and by the way, when you pay the bill remember to thank the restaurant, too.
Good News to You!