My thoughts (Brent Walsh):
Thanksgiving Dinner at my in-laws has always been preceded with Uncle Doug leading us in prayer. He’s the preacher in the family, and his prayers are sure to be an eloquent trip to the Throne of Grace. After all these years Uncle Doug has it down to a science. He starts with a divine salutation; he leads into a word of thanks for friends, family, and safe journeys from afar. The family is joined at the hands, standing in a circle around the dinner table. As Uncle Doug prays, we smell the turkey that has just come out of the oven and the sweet potatoes nestled under melted marshmallows bubbling over the sides of the glass dish. In just a moment we’ll all sit down and start passing the heaping dishes. But Uncle Doug has not retreated from the Pearly Gates just yet. He prays for the soldiers in the military, the leaders who govern the country, the unsung heroes in the soup kitchens, and the devoted folks who deliver Meals-on-Wheels, but who never get noticed…
I open my eyes and shift my stance to the leg that is still awake while my mind starts to wander. Ruth made her cranberry chutney again this year. I don’t like cranberries unless they’re dried and shriveled and served on salad. Diane brought those red velvet cupcakes she knows I like – the ones with the cream cheese frosting.
“…Thanks for the pastor and his family. Bless the poor folks who have no family. Bless all who are less fortunate – in Africa, in South America, in the Philippines…”
Finally, with a flourish of elegance, Uncle Doug closes his prayer and a subdued chorus of Amens ripples around the table. Both my sweaty hands are gently squeezed before being released.
Last Thanksgiving as we gathered around the table to join hands, much to my shock and horror, my father-in-law proudly announced to everyone that since we have a seminarian in the family now, he should be invited to offer the blessing. Everyone smiled at me and nodded their approval as I tried to conceal my panic. I do not like to pray out loud, so I usually have a backup excuse to get out of it. I couldn’t think of one this time, so I stomped on my brain’s accelerator and raced back in time to retrieve Uncle Doug’s formula. Divine salutation. Friends. Family. Safe journeys. Turkey. Crap! I need more than that! Philippines. Meals-on-Wheels. Blessings. Hands that prepared the meal. But these hands were now clasped and everyone’s eyes were closed in anticipation for the journey that I was supposed to lead them on. “Dear Lord…” and my mind went blank. Not even Meals-on-Wheels stuck around. I looked at the tops of my family members’ heads. This wasn’t going to be pretty.
As I prepare for the Thanksgiving gathering this year, I recognize that we all have our own unique approach to prayer. Some of us stroll contentedly through the garden of blessings, basking in the presence of God and completely forgetting about the turkey while we commune with the Holy. Others of us stumble through a few haltering acknowledgements and then finally crash into the amen once we realize our train of thought is tangled up in the bushes. The good news is that God is not concerned with how we come in prayer. The important thing is that we present our prayers to God in the way that comes most naturally to us, even if that means we don’t say anything out loud at all.
Thought for the day: Present your Thanksgiving prayer to God in your way. Pray the way that helps you communicate and cultivate a deeper relationship with God.
We encourage you to include a time of prayer with this reading. If you need a place to get started, consider the suggestions on the How to Pray page.