Prayer before Meals and Manners - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 11:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm not sure if I'm out of line with the way I'm thinking or not so I'd like to get some opinions.

We recently had some friends (a couple and their 2 year old) stay at our house for the weekend. At dinnertime one night after we had eaten a few bites of food, one friend said "oh, we forgot to say our blessings" to the 2 year old. They proceed to reach for our hands and said a short prayer.

At the end of the weekend after our friends had left, DH approached me asking how I felt about our friends leading a prayer in our home. He thought it was very presumptuous and inappropriate of them. I'll admit it made me uncomfortable at the time and now the more I think about it, it bothers me. I also realized that this happens when we have some extended family over for gatherings.

I have another friend who silently closes her eyes and says a prayer before she eats. She never gives any warning signs and often times I'm in mid-sentence when I notice that she has tuned out in prayer. Again, I'm left sitting there uncomfortable waiting for her to finish and sometimes feeling even more uncomfortable if I've already taken a bite of my food.

So what is appropriate? What do you do if you do pray before meals? Do you consider others who may not say before meal blessings? I have no issues going through the motions if I'm at someone elses house out of respect for them and their household but I'm finding myself more and more annoyed at the fact that people come into my home and assume that it is appropriate to lead a prayer without asking first.
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#2 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 11:53 AM
 
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Did they include you or force you to be included? I don't want to say, "You shouldn't be offended" but I will admit to being a bit confused as to why you're upset...
I'm afraid if you tell them that they "aren't allowed" to pray in your house they may not be okay coming over. I don't know your friends so I can't say it with certainty. But if it were me, I'd be wary about it.

Have you discussed it with them? Like, maybe ask if they'll give you a heads up next time? Or maybe if they can do it before coming to the table? (Like, if you're in the kitchen prepping food they can say something quick) Or even just nod to each other and do it silently?

I'm hesitant to jump on someone's religious beliefs and practices like that. I mean, I'd be taken aback for a bit if a friend came in and lead a Muslim prayer before dinner or something (we're a Christian household) but I wouldn't ask them to not do it again if it were something important to them (and if they were a good friend)

I dunno...

In the case of being out to dinner with friends just let them know to give you a heads up. Ask them to say, "just a second" or hold up a finger to let you know there's a pause.

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#3 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 01:13 PM
 
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I wouldn't be especially comfortable with the hand-grabbing -- the show of an assumption that I was going to participate in their prayer -- but I really can't see a reason to be bothered by someone leading a prayer itself. Likewise, it's generally better manners to let a person finish their sentence or to say "excuse me for a second" or such before effectively turning away for a moment, but that's not to do with it being a prayer specificially ... anyone would do the same before getting up from the table, answering a cellphone, or whatever else. (Although feeling uncomfortable if you've started eating already ... that I would say is something on you, not your companion, unless they've made some indication of disapproval.)
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#4 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 01:20 PM
 
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I would imagine that if it were just the couple, they may have prayed silently to themselves, but since there was a 2 yo involved as well, they were probably just trying to keep with their routine of teaching him to pray before meals. They probably held your hands just out of habit if that's how they do it in their home and didn't think to much of it. If it really bothers you I would let them know that they are welcome to pray in your home before meals, but that you prefer to not be included.

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#5 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 02:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I guess what bothers me is the assumption that I or my husband or child will be be participating. If I wanted to do this, wouldn't I take the lead because it is my home?

I have absolutely no issues with people praying on their own but I honestly just don't like having to pretend and go through the motions in my own house for the sake of politeness. The hand grabbing has happened in every single situation I've encountered and it seems more rude to drop someone's hand and make an issue out of it than to just indulge them.

I guess that's why I'm asking what do you do? Do you assume that others will want to be included? Do you consider that others may not want to join? I'm trying to understand someone else's perspective because I can't imagine attempting to lead a ritual in someone's else's home without their consent first and I'm finding that it happens often in mine.
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#6 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 02:38 PM
 
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I have absolutely no issues with people praying on their own but I honestly just don't like having to pretend and go through the motions in my own house for the sake of politeness.
I'm sorry you feel that way. I guess I don't see it as that big of a deal. When I am around others of different religions, I have no problem allowing them to do whatever it is they do while waiting respectfully or bowing my head as well. Is it that big of a deal to hold hands as a way of respecting them and their beliefs?

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#7 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 02:49 PM - Thread Starter
 
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On the other hand, is it a big deal to refrain from grabbing someone's hand and launching into prayer? Is that respecting my beliefs? I just feel like the only beliefs that are being respected are the ones that are not of my household.
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#8 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 02:58 PM
 
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On the other hand, is it a big deal to refrain from grabbing someone's hand and launching into prayer? Is that respecting my beliefs? I just feel like the only beliefs that are being respected are the ones that are not of my household.
If it makes you uncomfortable, just tell them so. I'm sure they just do it out of habit.

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#9 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 03:59 PM
 
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People who pray before meals feel very strongly about it. They feel that they need to thank God for the food and ask Him to bless it. Expecting them to refrain form that while in your presence may be something they would not consider.

I honestly don't see what the big deal is about them praying. If you don't want to participate, tell them so. I doubt they would try to force you to do it or lecture you about it. But, you should respect their beliefs and practices and let it go.

We say grace, and because we are Catholic, we make the sign of the cross. I have a hard time doing this in front of non-Catholics and in public, but I do it anyway. No one has ever said anything about it- not even my husbands protestant family. When people eat at our house, we say grace out loud as always, and we make the sign of the cross even if they do not. Again, no one has ever expressed any problem with this.

When I am at someone elses house who does not say grace, I say it quietly to myself. However, in the case of having small children who are in training, I would say it out loud with the children.

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#10 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 04:04 PM
 
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I am fine with people following their need for prayer or grace at our house (as long as they're not damning us to hell in the process ), but grabbing someone's hands seems really presumptuous. Yes, they may not have thought about it that way, but being thoughtless doesn't make it ok. It IS forcing the issue, because it puts you in the awkward position -- and potentially in front of your child -- of either participating in something you're not comfortable with or that's not in line with your own religious beliefs and principles, or being rude and pulling your hand away and it becoming an issue. I think the rudeness starts at being a guest in someone else's home and presuming that your host wants to follow your lead in saying grace and grabbing their hands to lead them into it.
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#11 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 04:47 PM
 
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I can respect my guest wanting to pray in my home, but I absolutely will not participate. I think the polite thing for them to do would be to pray before everyone sits down at the table. If they didn't I would wait quietly while they prayed, but I would not hold hands.

This is going to get interesting soon since I am going to have to find a way to explain to DD that some people pray and that is ok, but that I find the practice, well I'm not even sure what the right word is, but I am very anti-prayer and will not be teaching her that it is something to do.

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#12 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 05:42 PM
 
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It IS forcing the issue, because it puts you in the awkward position -- and potentially in front of your child -- of either participating in something you're not comfortable with or that's not in line with your own religious beliefs and principles, or being rude and pulling your hand away and it becoming an issue.
To me, that is the main problem. The woman who remained silent and prayed by herself is following her own practices without imposing them on other people. That is completely different from yanking someone into their religious practices without even asking first.
It can be more than an etiquette issue, too. Some people do not pray with those outside their faith, or under certain circumstances.
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What do you do if you do pray before meals?
If DH and I are in public or at the home of someone of a different religion, we try to get a moment to ourselves to say prayers before meals without anyone noticing. If that is impossible, we say them quickly and silently at the table. Usually nobody notices. If others begin their own grace, we just sit quietly until they are finished.
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#13 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 06:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I think my two examples crossed paths in a way they weren't supposed to. In both situations I want to respect others beliefs however...

In Example B where my friend prays silently, she catches me off guard and I feel uncomfortable in that I feel like I am doing something inappropriate (talking, chewing, etc.) while she is saying grace. I guess since she has no issue then I should have no issue with it. I just wish she would give me a heads up so I can act respectfully during her prayer.

In Example A, this is really more the intent of my post. I have no problem with others saying grace for themselves at my dinnertable or in my home. I do have a problem with being expected to join. In fact I have never once been asked, just expected to go along with it.
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#14 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 07:00 PM
 
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I think sometimes it can be very true that people sort of forget that other people around them might believe/practice differently from themselves if they belong to the dominant religion of the culture and see themselves as just doing culturally normative things. More of an obtuseness that a rudeness thing, you know? You really might just need to pull one of them aside should you have them over again and say something like, "I'm sorry, I definitely don't want to make a big deal of it, but our family doesn't really hold hands and say grace, so you're totally welcome to but it's kind of awkward for us when you include us in that." Which would doubtlessly be another awkward moment, but at least a one-time one that makes things clear.
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#15 of 62 Old 10-27-2009, 09:09 PM
 
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that

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#16 of 62 Old 10-28-2009, 12:37 AM
 
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In Example B where my friend prays silently, she catches me off guard and I feel uncomfortable in that I feel like I am doing something inappropriate (talking, chewing, etc.) while she is saying grace. I guess since she has no issue then I should have no issue with it. I just wish she would give me a heads up so I can act respectfully during her prayer.
I have been in your friend's situation, and while I can understand your wanting a "heads up," if she is saying her prayers silently and without comment, she probably wants them to go unremarked. The most respectful thing would probably be to go on as usual and pretend not to notice.
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#17 of 62 Old 10-28-2009, 01:24 AM
 
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For Example B - I have been that person - sorry for making you feel akward! It can sometimes be hard to say grace and not be rude in the conversation with someone who doesn't. I wait for a break as we recieve our food, then pray silently, but sometimes the person who doesn't normally pray does start talking to me. It doesn't upset me, and I try my best to make the other person feel comfortable. I guess I should just be more proactive and say "I'm going to pray over my food now" - I just felt that was more forceful and akward than just praying.

For Example A - I get what you are saying. Actually, I pray but don't generally hold hands when doing it, and it does feel uncomfortable for me when people do it that way. For me, though, I am praying anyway, so I just try to take the hand holding as a positive/togetherness/family type thing. I think that if you are really bothered by praying with everyone before the meal, it'd be good to talk about it with your guests before it comes up at a meal.

Since you know these people and that this is part of how they observe their faith, and doing it that way together makes you uncomfortable, maybe you could come to them with an alternate idea before it becomes an issue again. For instance, suggesting that you feel much more comfortable with silent prayer before meals - or that you feel uncomfortable holding hands while praying, and would rather not do that while they prayed. Both suggestions are things that I imagine most people would be sensitive to.

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#18 of 62 Old 10-28-2009, 01:38 AM
 
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I can respect my guest wanting to pray in my home, but I absolutely will not participate. I think the polite thing for them to do would be to pray before everyone sits down at the table. If they didn't I would wait quietly while they prayed, but I would not hold hands.

This is going to get interesting soon since I am going to have to find a way to explain to DD that some people pray and that is ok, but that I find the practice, well I'm not even sure what the right word is, but I am very anti-prayer and will not be teaching her that it is something to do.
Why not just state that some people do, but we don't. Especially if she is young. No reason to instill hostility and animosity just because you don't do it.
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#19 of 62 Old 10-28-2009, 02:04 AM
 
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Not saying a hand holding grace myself, I don't know the motivation for assuming that everyone wants to participate, but I have expeirienced this. Particularly when your like, ok I can be grateful and then the leader goes "thanks for the food (insert g-d or g-ddess of specific religion that I'm not here)". Its awkward. do you not hold hands? do you deal with it even though you don't beleive? This sometimes happens at family holidays. I'm thinking to keep it from being a problem, maybe I'll lead it? something nice and religious free.

While I'm sure that for these people, its so automatic, and feels weird to not offer to hold your hand for grace like they are excluding you, here is another suggustion that I would propose would be a polite thing to do:
ask if its ok to lead a non-religious gratitude blessing (if that is ok to them)
or ask/say that they will do their grace, and ask if you want to participate
or like others have said, say it quietly.
if your at their house though, I think it is perfectly reasonable for them to say grace in their way, and expect to include you though you can certainly opt out.

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#20 of 62 Old 10-28-2009, 02:50 AM
 
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Why not just state that some people do, but we don't. Especially if she is young. No reason to instill hostility and animosity just because you don't do it.
I'm guessing it's not hostility and animosity so much as it is a recognition of children's remarkable talent for asking "why."
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#21 of 62 Old 10-28-2009, 03:35 AM
 
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I think my two examples crossed paths in a way they weren't supposed to. In both situations I want to respect others beliefs however...

In Example B where my friend prays silently, she catches me off guard and I feel uncomfortable in that I feel like I am doing something inappropriate (talking, chewing, etc.) while she is saying grace. I guess since she has no issue then I should have no issue with it. I just wish she would give me a heads up so I can act respectfully during her prayer.

In Example A, this is really more the intent of my post. I have no problem with others saying grace for themselves at my dinnertable or in my home. I do have a problem with being expected to join. In fact I have never once been asked, just expected to go along with it.
Just curious. How does she catch you off guard if you already know that she prays before she starts to eat her meal? Maybe let her know if it bothers you so much.

As far as the family praying in your home like that. They probably felt that since you did not initiate the prayer they would for the son's sake. If you had never eaten with them before I'm sure you would be surprised, but you could say your own silent thank or whatever while they are saying their prayer. Or do a moment of silence.

I would not be too upset, since they probably didn't intend to offend you. Maybe the next time before you eat you could let them know that you feel uncomfortable with it. I tend to let things like that roll off my back.
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#22 of 62 Old 10-28-2009, 03:40 AM
 
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I am fine with people following their need for prayer or grace at our house (as long as they're not damning us to hell in the process ), but grabbing someone's hands seems really presumptuous. Yes, they may not have thought about it that way, but being thoughtless doesn't make it ok. It IS forcing the issue, because it puts you in the awkward position -- and potentially in front of your child -- of either participating in something you're not comfortable with or that's not in line with your own religious beliefs and principles, or being rude and pulling your hand away and it becoming an issue. I think the rudeness starts at being a guest in someone else's home and presuming that your host wants to follow your lead in saying grace and grabbing their hands to lead them into it.

I think the choice of the word "grabbing" may be a bit much. You may be anti prayer, but that doesn't mean that those who are "pro" prayer are aggressive. (And, ftr, we do not say a prayer before meals.)
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#23 of 62 Old 10-28-2009, 10:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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[QUOTE=mom2avasteph;14589481]Just curious. How does she catch you off guard if you already know that she prays before she starts to eat her meal? Maybe let her know if it bothers you so much. QUOTE]

Most of the time I am in the middle of a sentence or literally we are in the middle of a conversation when she just tunes herself out and closes her eyes. Picture a restaurant situation. I'm sure she's thinking that she'd really like to take a bite of her food so she just goes ahead and prays so that we can continue without much interruption but it's very awkward to be on the other end. Like I said above, I'm going to assume that since she doesn't seem to have an issue and my lack of comfort is out of respect for her, that I'll just continue with the way things are.

and thanks to those who responded about how they feel when they are saying grace silently. It gave me the perspective I was looking for.
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#24 of 62 Old 10-28-2009, 04:51 PM
 
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We do say grace before meals, but I am not much of a hand-holder. I would feel akward in a situation like that. But, I don't think there was any offense meant - people who are offensive on purpose about praying are pretty rare. Some people do tend to be a bit socially clueless though.

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#25 of 62 Old 10-28-2009, 06:03 PM
 
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Personally I wouldn't like someone presumming that they can do something without checking first. Whenever we visit someone's house that don't pray over their food Ill always ask first. We also give people the opportunity to opt out of they don't want to join our family if they are eating at our house. I don't want anyone to feel uncomfortable. If someone prefers not to we usually will say a quick silent prayer so we don't offend them.

eta- We don't hold hands when we prayer, not for family prayers or grace. Its just not something we do or I would feel very comfortable with.

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#26 of 62 Old 10-28-2009, 09:20 PM
 
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We do say grace before meals, but I am not much of a hand-holder. I would feel akward in a situation like that. But, I don't think there was any offense meant - people who are offensive on purpose about praying are pretty rare. Some people do tend to be a bit socially clueless though.
I'm sure you are correct in that no offense was meant, but to lots of people who do not hold the same religious beliefs or convictions, the automatic assumption that they DO is pretty offensive in itself.
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#27 of 62 Old 10-29-2009, 01:14 PM
 
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I'm sure you are correct in that no offense was meant, but to lots of people who do not hold the same religious beliefs or convictions, the automatic assumption that they DO is pretty offensive in itself.
Well, to be honest if they are offended simply by that assumption, when no offense is meant, I think they need to lighten up. Otherwise they are going to be feeling offended a lot about various things. Either point out that you don't share the assumption of let it go.

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#28 of 62 Old 10-29-2009, 01:29 PM
 
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Well, to be honest if they are offended simply by that assumption, when no offense is meant, I think they need to lighten up. Otherwise they are going to be feeling offended a lot about various things. Either point out that you don't share the assumption of let it go.
Exactly. I think people chose to get all worked up over things that could be solved with very simple communication. Taking hands and saying a blessing over a meal is not the same as someone trying to thump a bible on your head and telling you that you are damned to hell for eternity if you don't follow Jesus.

I know plenty of people who say a blessing over a meal that has nothing to do with Jesus or Christianity or Buddhism, basically we are thankful for this bounty, and glad for it, let's eat. Lots of people even grasp hands while saying it. It's about community and friendship. Not bashing you over the head with religion. Gah
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#29 of 62 Old 10-29-2009, 06:15 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Bluegoat View Post
Well, to be honest if they are offended simply by that assumption, when no offense is meant, I think they need to lighten up. Otherwise they are going to be feeling offended a lot about various things. Either point out that you don't share the assumption of let it go.
Yes, pointing out that you don't share the same belief is nice, but why must it be assumed that you do? The lack of awareness that that act displays is ignorant at best and sloping towards arrogance. Hence, why *some* people find offense at the automatic assumption that they are (insert predominant religion here) too. The need for diversity awareness is obviously alive and well.

ETA: I don't mean that diversity awareness is needed for anyone in specific on this thread. Just in general, everyday life.
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#30 of 62 Old 11-03-2009, 01:17 AM
 
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Originally Posted by SoxMama View Post
I think my two examples crossed paths in a way they weren't supposed to. In both situations I want to respect others beliefs however...

In Example B where my friend prays silently, she catches me off guard and I feel uncomfortable in that I feel like I am doing something inappropriate (talking, chewing, etc.) while she is saying grace. I guess since she has no issue then I should have no issue with it. I just wish she would give me a heads up so I can act respectfully during her prayer.

In Example A, this is really more the intent of my post. I have no problem with others saying grace for themselves at my dinnertable or in my home. I do have a problem with being expected to join. In fact I have never once been asked, just expected to go along with it.
Here is an option. can you say "grace" that contains sentiments that you do believe in? A friend of mine does this when visiting her in laws (they are Catholic, my friend is UU). She offers to say grace and then says a short "we thank the sun, the earth, the farmers and the animals" type of grace. It heads off conflict at the pass.

I do think that saying grace at someone else's table without asking is presumptuous. I would expect guests to ask, and if I were asked, I would allow it but may not join in (depends on what is being said).

You know the attributes for a great adult? Initiative, creativity, intellectual curiosity? They make for a helluva kid...
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