More than any other holiday in the civic calendar, Thanksgiving hearkens to the Christian roots of many of the colonies that would become the United States of America. Designated a federal holiday in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln, Thanksgiving has roots that date back to the 17th century in North America and even earlier in the Christian and Jewish communities worldwide. For at the heart of this annual autumnal feast is a very Christian impulse — to bless God, to give thanks for his goodness and mercy to us and to all he has made.
You can barely make it through a psalm or two without seeing an invitation to give thanks. Neither can you read an epistle in the New Testament without witnessing this praise bubbling up from the apostles.
But when considering the act of giving thanks this Thanksgiving week, my attention is drawn to our own Anglican tradition and our rhythm of daily prayer. At the close of Morning and Evening Prayer is a prayer called the General Thanksgiving. And as I have prayed this prayer many times a week for a decade, I’ve been drawn to the simple acts of praise and thanksgiving and have aspired to shape my life accordingly.
In this prayer (seen below) we bless God, give him thanks, and ask for a holy awareness of all his mercies that we can offer our lives as a living sacrifice.
I hope your Thanksgiving day is full of blessing, peace, and rest. And I hope you’ll pray this prayer and take the opportunity to bless God, give him thanks, and ask for awareness so that together with all of his saints we may offer ourselves, our souls, and our bodies as living sacrifices to him.
Join in me in praying this prayer this evening, then again tomorrow morning and so on. Pray it at your thanksgiving table, with friends or family. And may our lives follow the shape of this prayer throughout all ages. Amen.
“Almighty God, Father of all mercies,
we your unworthy servants give you humble thanks
for all your goodness and loving-kindness
to us and to all whom you have made.
We bless you for our creation, preservation,
and all the blessings of this life;
but above all for your immeasurable love
in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ;
for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory.
And, we pray, give us such an awareness of your mercies,
that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise,
not only with our lips, but in our lives,
by giving up our selves to your service,
and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be honor and glory throughout all ages. Amen."