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What Might We Pray at Thanksgiving?

What Might We Pray at Thanksgiving? November 24, 2021

Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels

As we gather around our tables with family and/or friends this week, thanksgiving and gratitude dominate (or should!) our hearts. But often we do not have the words sufficient to express our thoughts and feelings. Somewhat like the Anglicans have the Book of Common Prayer, which holds ancient prayers we can read at any time, I’ve gathered here a (much less-illustrious) collection of old and new prayers of thanksgiving.

Perhaps one will stand out to you for reading aloud before dinner. Happy Thanksgiving!

Biblical Prayers

Psalm 42:4

These things I remember

as I pour out my soul:

how I used to go to the house of God

under the protection of the Mighty One

with shouts of joy and praise

among the festive throng.

Psalm 100:1–5

Let the whole earth shout triumphantly to the Lord!

Serve the Lord with gladness;

come before him with joyful songs.

Acknowledge that the Lord is God.

He made us, and we are his—

his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving

and his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him and bless his name.

For the Lord is good, and his faithful love endures forever;

his faithfulness, through all generations.

Psalm 118:28

You are my God, and I will give you thanks.

You are my God; I will exalt you.

Colossians 3:17

And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Presidential Prayers

President George Washington, 1789

Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be . . . And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions—to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually—to render our national government a blessing to all the People, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed—to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord—To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and Us—and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

 

President Abraham Lincoln, 1863

A week after giving his short but brilliant Gettysburg Address he issued this proclamation of Thanksgiving.

I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.

 

President John F. Kennedy

Let us therefore proclaim our gratitude to Providence for manifold blessings—let us be humbly thankful for inherited ideals—and let us resolve to share those blessings and those ideals with our fellow human beings throughout the world. On that day let us gather in sanctuaries dedicated to worship and in homes blessed by family affection to express our gratitude for the glorious gifts of God; and let us earnestly and humbly pray that He will continue to guide and sustain us in the great unfinished tasks of achieving peace, justice, and understanding among all men and nations and of ending misery and suffering wherever they exist.

Other Public Figures

Abigail van Buren (“Dear Abby”)

O, heavenly Father: We thank thee for food and remember the hungry. We thank thee for health and remember the sick. We thank thee for friends and remember the friendless. We thank thee for freedom and remember the enslaved. May these remembrances stir us to service, that thy gifts to us may be used for others. Amen.

Mary Fairchild, author

Heavenly Father, on Thanksgiving Day, we bow our hearts to you and pray. We give you thanks for all you’ve done, especially for the gift of Jesus, your Son. For beauty in naturey your glory we see, for joy and health, friends, and family. For daily provision, your mercy and care, these are the blessings you graciously share. So today we offer this response of praise with a promise to follow you all of our days.

Walter Rauschenbusch, Baptist theologian (1861–1918)

“O God, we thank you for this earth, our home; For the wide sky and the blessed sun, for the salt sea and the running water, for the everlasting hills and the never-resting winds, for trees and the common grass underfoot. We thank you for our senses by which we hear the songs of birds, and see the splendor of the summer fields, and taste of the autumn fruits, and rejoice in the feel of the snow, and smell the breath of the spring. Grant us a heart wide open to all this beauty, and save our souls from being so blind that we pass unseeing when even the common thornbush is aflame with your glory. O God our creator, Who lives and reigns for ever and ever.”


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