One by one, the Weiss family rounded up the nine grandchildren, who had been running circles around the barns. They gathered under a towering maple tree, around a table laden with barbecue meatballs and French silk pie, and grabbed one another’s hands.

“We ask your blessing on the meal we’re about to eat,” said David Weiss, 75, head bowed under his camouflage hat.

“Amen,” his family responded — a quintessential display of one of America’s most enduring religious traditions.

A new poll by The Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that saying grace is a widespread practice in the United States. About half of all Americans take a minute to say a prayer over their food at least a few times a week, the poll reveals, making grace an unusual commonality in a politically divided nation.

Rural and urban Americans are equally likely to say grace, the poll shows. Northerners and Southerners, Catholics and Protestants, Democrats and Republicans, all say grace to varying degrees. Even some Americans who reject organized religion still say grace.

“It’s a powerful way of reminding yourself that you are not self-sufficient, that you are living by somebody’s grace, that plenty of other people who work just as hard as you don’t have anything to eat,” said Tim Keller, a prominent New York City pastor who wrote a book on prayer.

Keller said the physical act of bowing heads, closing eyes and folding hands is an important exercise in gratitude for people of many faiths, from childhood on up.

That’s true for the Weiss family, evangelical Protestants who gathered on their 77-acre farm in Wisconsin. Silvie Weiss, 11, called grace “a peaceful moment to get away from the world.” Her aunt Becky Sell, 36, said that “it offers me a chance to fix a point in my day where I am intentional about honoring and acknowledging what God has done for us.”

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SOURCE: The Washington Post
Sarah Pulliam Bailey, Julie Zauzmer, and Emily Guskin