I don’t know how it worked in your churches and family, but it seemed to me that whoever had the most “authority” or “spiritual clout” blessed the meals during church potlucks and private hospitality.
Nobody had any ulterior motives; it just seemed reasonable, when it came to that awkward moment when somebody had to pray out loud, in front of people, to ask the pastor or the father or the husband to pray the blessing.
The head of the house (or the church or the Christian group) got to pray the dinner blessing. All men, of course, just like only men prayed out loud during the public worship service.
All of the men in my life who prayed over these communal meals certainly deserved such a recognition, so it never occurred to me to question that practice.
Then I got married to a man who hated praying extemporaneously in front of me, much less in front of any friends and family we might gather together in our little apartment. I found myself in the position of “assigning” who got to pray the meal prayer.
(Why didn’t I just say the blessing myself? I don’t know. My family often asked our guests to pray, as a courtesy, I think, as a sign that we respected their spirituality and contribution. Plus, I don’t like praying out loud either. Introvert. Sorry.)
Whenever we got together with Christian families, the wife always asked the husband to pray. In any situation where a layman could pray, men always prayed. When my family visited us, I asked my dad to pray, without hesitation, for the head of the household reason. I later thought, “It didn’t even occur to me to ask my mom, and she’s equally the head of our home and a spiritual servant deserving of recognition per The Arbitrary Rule of Who I Ask to Lead the Meal Prayer.”
I started noticing this trend, and I decided to break it. When my married friends came over, I asked the wife to bless dinner. (This also made sense, because we’ve been besties forever.)
This is an ingenious (and a little devious) way to scramble the patriarchy and introduce women’s prayerful voices to a Christian community who silences or unintentionally passes over them.
I don’t have the authority to order church leadership to allow women to pray during the worship service, but I do have authority in my own home to request who prays. I think asking godly wives, daughters, and single women to do the traditional, head-of-the-household prayer is a simple way to empower Christian women. It would work in any situation where men traditionally take the lead — co-ed Bible studies, prayer groups, or lay(wo)men ministries.
Some women have never even heard the power of their voice before.
Of course, the ideal would be for everybody to pray one prayer at once, but the church split and each denomination changed up the group dinner prayer. Might as well use a broken system for the advancement of women’s spiritual rights!