Communion, also known as the Eucharist or the Lord’s Supper, commemorates the biblical Last Supper and is a time-honored tradition in Christian churches of many denominations.
Even early Christians held communion regularly, often in the form of a shared meal.
Around the late 2nd century, the ritual had changed from a full meal to a ceremony with bread and wine, and by the 4th century, it was a daily ritual.
Today, communion practices are as varied as the denominations themselves.
Some churches offer communion at every service or mass, while others may offer it once monthly or on an irregular schedule.
Below, we explain what to say during and after communion, whether you’re receiving communion or leading the service.
What to Say When Receiving Communion
While waiting to receive communion, you should stand quietly. As the person ahead of you receives communion, it’s common to bow your head as a sign of respect.
Depending on your church or your personal preference, when it’s your turn to receive communion, you may accept it by hand or on your tongue. If you choose to receive it by hand, hold out your hands, one on top of the other, with the palms facing up.
What to Say After Receiving Communion
In the time between receiving communion and hearing the final blessing, it’s common for those who take communion to quietly or silently say prayers.
There is no single prayer you should say after receiving communion. There may be one that’s customary in your particular church, or you may choose one that allows you personally to reflect and give thanks to the Lord.
A few common prayer options include:
What to Say When Giving or Leading Communion
When leading communion, there are many options for what to say and do.
You may serve communion at the front of a church, serve it with individual plates and cups, or serve it in your living room as the spiritual leader of a household.
You can also read 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, which details the first communion.
Before giving communion, you may present the bread and the cup to the congregation, stating, “This is the Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was broken for you” and “This is the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was shed for you.”
Depending on your church’s traditions, you may also have an elder or deacon pray over the bread and cup before giving it to the congregation.
As you give communion to each member of the congregation, it’s common to say “the Body of Christ” before placing the bread on their hand or tongue and “the Blood of Christ” before giving them the cup.
Prepare a final blessing to read when everyone has received communion. Some churches have specific prayers or prayer options for this purpose; for example, the Anglican church uses post-communion prayers from the Book of Common Prayer.
You can follow the traditions of your denomination or, if leading a private service, you can choose an appropriate prayer that gives thanks to God.