How to go beyond just saying what you're thankful for.
How do most Americans celebrate Thanksgiving? Many furnish a lengthy table with an abundance of sumptuous foods, a la Norman Rockwell. That means turkey and dressing, potatoes and cranberries, pumpkin pie, apple pie, blackberry pie, rhubarb pie (are you hungry yet?) followed by a lazy afternoon watching football with a belly so full it feels like it’s going to burst!
Oh, and we give thanks. For some, that means going around the table taking turns saying one thing we’re thankful for. For others it means a few moments of “grace” before the meal—maybe a little longer than our usual “grace,” because after all, it’s Thanksgiving.
But if you’re looking for something a little more creative, a little more, well, thankful this year, why not try one of the following ways not to talk about being thankful, but of actually praying your thanks on Thanksgiving:
1) Fill in the blank.
Once everyone is seated for the meal, instead of each person saying one thing for which they are grateful, ask each person to complete the following sentence as a prayer: “Thank you, God, for _______________.” Or, for a little variety, suggest alternatives: “Thank you that ____________” and “Thank you for not ____________.”
2) Take a photo.
If everyone at your gathering has a smart phone or tablet, make an announcement an hour or so before the main meal. Ask everyone to take a photo on their device of something for which they’re grateful. Then, before eating, ask everyone to bow their heads. . . and pass their photo to the right, in silence, as a visual prayer, until all the photos have been shared.
3) Have a Thanksgiving tree.
If your Christmas tree is already up, tie prayers of thanks written on paper to some of the tree limbs and then read them aloud during your celebration (you can also make a cardboard tree or simply place a written prayer at each table setting).
4) Create a gratitude garland.
Cut brightly colored construction paper into strips. Well before your meal, ask participants to write a prayer of thanksgiving on at least one strip and place it in a jar or bowl. Then, with a roll of tape handy, invite everyone to take a strip out, read it, and then form it into a paper chain, one strip at a time until all the prayers have been prayed. The gratitude garland can then be hung somewhere or even saved for the Christmas tree.
5) Plan a Thanksgiving communion.
It doesn’t have to be fancy. Simply provide a cup and piece of bread to everyone. Then read Psalm 116:12-19 and “lift the cup of salvation together,” giving thanks for Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Of course, you may have a far better idea. Or you may choose to combine two or more of these Thanksgiving prayer exercises. Whatever you do, don’t just talk about your gratitude, direct your thanksgiving toward God.