We had finished our bedtime stories and I was ready to tuck them in to bed. “I’m not saying it, I always say it.” My granddaughters (ages 5 and 8) began bickering about who would say the night night prayers. It was a standoff and my husband had to intervene to get us past the impasse. “You will say them tonight and tomorrow your sister.” Isn’t it funny how sometimes prayer feels forced. Even this American ritual of pausing to list what we are grateful for can feel perfunctory.
Honestly some days we are more overwhelmed with problems than with gratitude. Anne Lamott says that there are three essential prayers: Help, Thanks, Wow. Thanksgiving is tailor made for Thanks and Wow but often we are weighed down with the burdens of help… Help my family, my finances, my illness, my country, this broken world.
A recent article we discussed in staff meeting reminded me that there are multiple levels of gratitude. Thanksgiving can be more thank “thank you for a bountiful harvest, a free country, a healthy child.” Gratitude can also creep into our souls when life seems bleak. When the soldier on the battlefield wakes in the morning to the horrors of war he might pray, “thank you for one more day.” When the daughter holds her mother’s hand in the Hospice house, she might pray, “thank you for the comfort care mom receives now.”
And sometimes gratitude cannot be mustered alone. You might need a community to pray on your behalf. Some Sundays you may find yourself in the pew unable to pray “Hallowed by thy name” and unable to get your vocal chords to joint the chorus of “Praise God from whom all blessings flow” because the challenges have blinded you to any sunny goodness from almighty God. On these days, thanksgiving becomes a communal act, and the voices around you pray because “I’m not saying it.”
Jesus, fully aware that the authorities were plotting his crucifixion, sat at a table with his friends and took the bread and gave thanks and shared the cup of wine, saying this is God’s love poured out for all.
That is why holy communion or the Lord’s supper is sometimes called “The great thanksgiving.”
On Thanksgiving as I sit down to turkey and all the trimmings, I’ll be saying a prayer of gratitude for all of you and especially for the joy of knowing that we are able to take turns saying “Thanks be to God” as sisters and brothers in the household of faith.
Grace and peace,