By Janet Thompson, Crosswalk.com
If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, pray ahead and thank God for each guest. Ask God to help you to be a blessing and radiate joy. Pray over your home and each chair at the table. Before the meal, pray as you normally would—your guests know they’re coming to a Christian home. “Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling.” 1 Peter 4:9
If you’re a Thanksgiving guest, as you walk up to the home, pray to be an emissary of God’s love and that he will stir up the fruit of the Spirit in your heart. If your hosts don’t pray before the meal, bow your head and pray over your food as you normally would, or better yet, ask if you could say a prayer to bless the meal. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things, there is no law.” Gal. 5:22-23
Reading Paul’s letter to the Philippians, I noticed this heading in the first chapter—“Thanksgiving and Prayer.” I thought how appropriate to personalize and paraphrase some of this biblical passage as the foundation for the following first two Thanksgiving Table Prayers.
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1. Thanksgiving Table Prayer Adapted from Philippians 1:1-11
God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, gathering at this Thanksgiving table as God’s holy people in Christ Jesus, we pray God’s grace and peace to each one seated together and to our hurting world.
Every time we think of our family, friends, church family, neighbors, brothers and sisters in Christ, we give thanks to you, God, for them all. In our prayers, we always pray with joy, for we are partners in spreading the Good News about Christ from the first day we heard it until now. We are certain that you, God, who began a good work within and through each of us, will carry it out until it is finally finished on the day when your Son, Christ Jesus, returns.
So it is right for us to feel this way, for we have a special place in your heart and in each other’s heart. Sitting before this bountiful table of food, we unite in God’s grace through prayer, praise, communication, fellowship, and food. God, guide us to love you and others as we long to be blessed with the tender compassion and affection of Christ Jesus.
And this is our prayer, heavenly Father: That our love may overflow more and more, and that we will keep on growing in spiritual knowledge and understanding. We want to focus on what really matters so that we may be able to discern what is best for us and those you love and cherish and that we would live pure and blameless lives.
May we always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in our life by Jesus Christ—as we guide, encourage, parent, serve, work, learn, and mentor. Please fill us with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to you, dear God. Amen.
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2. Thanksgiving Table Prayer Adapted from Philippians 1:27-28
Dear Heavenly Father, whatever happens in our lives, above all, we must live as citizens of heaven conducting ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. We will encourage each other to stand firm in one Spirit, and one purpose, praying together as one for our faith, which is the Good News of the Gospel. We won’t be frightened or intimidated in any way by those who oppose or offend us. We thank you, Lord God, for the many blessings you bestow on us through the gift of salvation.
For we have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ, but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this spiritual battle together. We have struggled in the past, and we’re very much still in the midst of it, but we don’t lose hope. Jesus will be back soon! Praise God, Hallelujah!
Let this be our prayer together as we gather at this Thanksgiving table: For I decided that while I was with you, I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. (1 Cor. 2:2 NLT) So let’s now enjoy a meal of celebrating how good and gracious Jesus is and may our words and actions honor and glorify his name. Amen.
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3. A Thanksgiving Table Prayer of Praise
Lord, we praise You and thank You for the abundant blessings You bestow on us and for bringing us together today to enjoy and appreciate the gifts of food, taste, laughter, and kinship. You are the Great Provider, and without you, we would have nothing. Help us to remember that every good and perfect thing comes from your hand.
Father, you’ve put it in the heart of those who prepared the food to share with us their provisions and a portion of what you’ve given them, and we give you thanks for their generosity and caring. Precious Jesus, remind us to never take for granted the sharing and breaking of bread with friends and family, as there are many today who aren’t enjoying such a blessing.
As we sit around the Thanksgiving feast, we praise you precious Lord in all circumstances, the good times and the difficult times because we know you’re always with us in the midst of them and we grow stronger in our faith as we persevere through hardships.
We humbly feel your presence and your grace today and every day. As we partake of the food that fuels us, Lord, please fill our hearts with a gratitude for the life you’ve given us and remind us daily that you are our Great Creator. Let us never take for granted the greatest blessing of all, your Son Jesus Christ who sacrificed his life to give us eternal life. So whether our table is bountiful or sparse, we’re enriched by your love for each of us.
Let our conversation be pleasing to you, oh Lord, and grant us peace and expectancy of what you have planned for each person at the table. Help us be encouragers and a source of compassion to those who are despondent or sad as they miss someone who isn’t with us today, and bless them wherever they are. Open our eyes Lord that we might see you and represent you better today and every day. We love you, Lord. Amen.
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4. A Thanksgiving Table Prayer of Remembrance
Holy Father, this Thanksgiving, and every day, teach us to go and represent Christ to a depraved and fallen world, so that because of our witness and sharing the Good News of Jesus more will be saved than lost when Christ returns. We see how eminent his return could be as we watch our world seemingly spinning out of control, but we also remember that you, God, are always in control and close to all who seek and love your guidance and direction.
Help us Lord to make this Thanksgiving a day filled with joy, peace, and gratitude for the many blessings we each have because we serve a great and glorious God who will never leave us or forsake us. “Come, let us sing to the Lord! Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come to him with thanksgiving. Let us sing psalms of praise to him.” (Ps. 95:1-2 NLT)
Let our Thanksgiving be a day of harmony focusing on God and giving him thanks and praise in whatever way he leads. Remind us, as we pass the food around the table and rejoice at the smells and flavors, that we don’t always have to speak Jesus with our words. We can reveal him with our actions, smiles, joy, and countenance! We give you this day Lord and we give you the honor and glory for this food. In your precious Son Jesus Christ’s name, we pray. Amen.
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The Thankful Tablecloth
We read in Genesis that God spoke everything into being, and yet, many of us will be sharing turkey and dressing with people who don’t believe or discount the existence of God. They don’t know where they’re going when they die, or where everything we enjoy on earth came from… and maybe they don’t even care. They’ll walk out of the room when we pray. Maybe after a few drinks, their conversation will turn ugly, even though innocent young eyes are watching how the “adults” interact.
My husband and I have been thinking and praying about all of this and beseeching God to prepare us to be a light in the darkness. Not ignore the darkness because that would be the cowards’ way out, but to help us respond as if Jesus was standing behind us, speaking through us.
In Forsaken God? Remembering the Goodness of God Our Culture Has Forgotten, I share a way to use your Thanksgiving tablecloth as a conversation piece and make memories for generations to come. Here is an excerpt from the book. I hope it gives you some ideas. I’ll be taking our Thankful Tablecloth with us to my daughter’s Thanksgiving table.
“When my breast cancer journey started, I became keenly aware of making memories with my family. At times like that, you think seriously about your mortality and the legacy you want to leave with your loved ones. You appreciate each new day of life. The sun rising every morning is an act of God to celebrate. Holidays like Thanksgiving have new meaning. Typically, Thanksgiving is a celebration where family and friends gather for a feast, and everyone says what they’re thankful for in the past year. But after finishing the dishes and putting away the leftovers, how many really remember what everyone said?
The Thanksgiving following my first breast cancer surgery in 2002, I had an idea of a Thankful Tablecloth. I purchased a Thanksgiving-themed tablecloth with plenty of white space and a box of wash-resistant colored markers. After Thanksgiving dinner, I brought out the markers and asked everyone—kids included—to find a spot on the tablecloth to write what they were thankful for that year, sign, and date it. We traced handprints for the tiny ones with their name and age.
Today, we have years of thankful messages to read every Thanksgiving and remember the many acts of God’s goodness to us and the people who joined us at the celebration table each year. If we go to someone’s house for Thanksgiving dinner, I ask if I can bring our Thankful Tablecloth and markers.
When I go to be with the Lord, I pray my family will continue bringing out the Thanksgiving Tablecloth as a reminder through the generations of how good God has been to our family and friends.”
Enter his gates with thanksgiving; go into his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and praise his name. Psalm 100:4 NLT
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