When is it appropriate to pray before eating your meal in a restaurant?

When is it appropriate to pray before eating your meal in a restaurant? If your religious beliefs dictate you give thanks before the first morsel enters your mouth, the answer is it is always appropriate to pray before eating. How you do it and what the others at the table should do while you’re praying presents etiquette awareness.

Group prayer
If you know beforehand that everyone at the table shares your religious belief, some choose to hold hands around the table as one person leads the prayer. For this ritual, the person praying should use a low voice, heard primarily by those at the table. Other patrons should not be disturbed or have their meal interrupted because of a loud prayer meeting at another table.

Individual prayer
If only a few of the diners at your table wish to say a prayer, each should bow his head and silently pray. Keep the prayer from 10 to 20 seconds. You should not have the other diners waiting too long for you to finish your prayer before they can eat.

It is, of course, your right not to pray even if everyone around you is praying. To show respect to others, your role is to sit quietly as the others pray. Discontinue conversation and do not start eating until the last person has raised his head from his prayer. Sometimes you may start eating without realizing someone is praying. As soon as you notice, stop eating and wait. No need to apologize; just be quiet.

Casual versus formal restaurants
The above rules apply whether you are at a fast food restaurant or a first-class establishment. Some people feel they might look silly calling attention to themselves by praying, especially at a business meal. Use your judgment if you think you’ll be uncomfortable praying in front of others you’ve just met. Ideally, you’ll be respected for not compromising your beliefs.