When President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1863, he did it by proclaiming it “a day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent father who dwelleth in the heavens.” In keeping with the spiritual component of the holiday that Lincoln spoke of, some contributors to the The Washington Post’s local faith leader network have shared their religion’s prayers of gratefulness and thanksgiving.
A General Thanksgiving from the Book of Common Prayer:
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us. We thank you for the splendor of the whole creation, for the beauty of this world, for the wonder of life, and for the mystery of love.
We thank you for the blessing of family and friends, and for the loving care which surrounds us on every side.
We thank you for setting us at tasks which demand our best efforts, and for leading us to accomplishments which satisfy and delight us.
We thank you also for those disappointments and failures that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on you alone.
Above all, we thank you for your Son Jesus Christ; for the truth of his Word and the example of his life; for his steadfast obedience, by which he overcame temptation; for his dying, through which he overcame death; and for his rising to life again, in which we are raised to the life of your kingdom.
Grant us the gift of your Spirit, that we may know him and make him known; and through him, at all times and in all places, may give thanks to you in all things. Amen.
For all the universality of this prayer, thanking God for just about everything, what I appreciate most is that includes those things that we are most likely not that excited about, disappointments and failures. Viewed through a different lens, though, even these things contain great blessings and opportunities for us, perhaps some of the best in our lives over the long haul. Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the many gifts in our lives, even those that are a little bit harder to receive and recognize.
O Thou kind Lord! This gathering is turning to Thee. These hearts are radiant with Thy love. These minds and spirits are exhilarated by the message of Thy glad-tidings. O God! Let this American democracy become glorious in spiritual degrees even as it has aspired to material degrees, and render this just government victorious. Confirm this revered nation to upraise the standard of the oneness of humanity, to promulgate the Most Great Peace, to become thereby most glorious and praiseworthy among all the nations of the world. O God! This American nation is worthy of Thy favors and is deserving of Thy mercy. Make it precious and near to Thee through Thy bounty and bestowal.
— Shastri Purushotma sits on the governing council of the Bahai’s of Washington, D.C.
Expressions of gratitude to repay the kindness of the Buddhas whose words open the door to liberation, to our mothers for their boundless love, and to our enemies for assisting us in developing patience:
What way is there to repay the Buddhas
Who grant immeasurable benefit
And who befriend the world without pretension
Other than by pleasing sentient beings?
— “Shantideva A Guide to The Bodhisattva's Way of Life”
Having seen that the door to all good qualities
Is the thought to place all cherished mothers in happiness,
Even if others rise up as my enemy
May I be blessed to cherish them more than my life.
— “Panchen Lama Chokyi Gyaltsen, Guru Puja”
I should be happy to have an enemy
For he assists me in my conduct of awakening.
And because I am able to practice patience with him
He is worthy of being given
The very first fruits of my patience,
For in this way he is the cause of it.
— “Shantideva A Guide to The Bodhisattva's Way of Life”
— Losang Tendrol is a nun in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. She teaches meditation at the Guhyasamaja Buddhist Center in Reston, Va.
The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all ‘thanksgiving.’ ”(The Catechism of the Catholic Church)
The following are prayers from the Roman Missal, 3rd Edition, for Thanksgiving Day:
Father all-powerful, your gifts of love are countless and your goodness infinite; as we come before you on Thanksgiving Day with gratitude for your kindness, open our hearts to have concern for every man, woman, and child, so that we may share your gifts in loving service. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Prayer after Communion:
In this celebration, O Lord our God, you have shown us the depths of your love for all your children; help us, we pray, to reach out in love to all your people, so that we may share with them the good things of time and eternity. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
In Judaism, Thanksgiving doesn’t just come once a year. It’s every day. In fact, three times a day we anchor our prayers with blessings of thanksgiving. For Jews, to pray in earnest requires a heart open in gratitude. To connect with God is to recognize that we are provided with more than we can ever need in this life. In Hebrew, we call this fullness of heart “Hakarat HaTov,” or “Recognizing the Good.” When God created the world, God called it “very good.” Our job is to begin our spiritual life with an abiding sense of that goodness each and every day. The following prayer from the ‘Amidah, the Standing Prayer of 19 benedictions that we recite morning, noon, and night, captures this experience:
“We thank You that You are Adonai our God and God of our ancestors throughout all time. You are the Rock of our lives, the Shield of our salvation in every generation. We thank you and speak your praises for our lives that are in Your hand, for our souls that are in Your charge, for Your miracles that are with us, and for Your wonders and Your gifts that are with us at all times—evening, morning, and noon. You are good because your compassion never ceases; You are compassionate because your kindness never ends. You have always directed our hearts toward You. For all these blessings we shall ever praise and exult Your Name. May every living being thank and praise You in Truth, God of our deliverance and help. Blessed are You Adonai, whose Name is Goodness, to You it is joyful to thank”
— Gil Steinlauf is senior rabbi at Adas Israel Congregation in D.C.
In the comments, share with us your favorite Thanksgiving prayer or blessing.