Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Prayer for Thanksgiving Day 2011

O Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is Good (Psalm 118:1). What shall I render to the Lord for all His bounty? I will lift up the sacrifice of Thanksgiving, and call on the name of the Lord (Psalm 116:17).

Almighty, gracious, compassionate and faithful God, we get confused about giving You thanks, as we are more likely to bow our heads and enumerate the things we have achieved for ourselves than to realize what You have actually given, more likely to notice what distinguishes us from or vaunts us above other people than to recognize how, like a good Father, You love and bless all Your children.
So on this Thanksgiving day, we choose to “be still, and know that You are God” (Psalm 46:10), that “You have made us, not we ourselves” (Psalm 100:3). We thank You then
for Dependence, even in a culture that prizes independence, for we need You, we cannot take a breath without You; we are utterly dependent upon You, the way a flower needs rain and sunshine, the way a child needs mother’s caress – and therefore we thank You then

for Life, and not just the fact that I am still surviving, but for the fullness of life, the goodness of being able to see a face, and be seen, my heart beating, the breath I just took for granted, the wonder of rising in the morning to say “This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24), the calm that can weather troubles and anxieties because we cherish the simple fact of being – and therefore we thank You then

for Recollection, as the richness of life is not merely now, but the memories of those we have loved, some of whom we have lost, magical moments, words spoken, kindnesses received, and coming to understand the plot of Your goodness over many years, certainly in the days of Abraham, Moses, Mary, and Paul, and in the lives of the saints, but also in our days and years, and we gladly bear the light burden and humbled delight of gratitude as we reminisce, tell stories, gaze at old photos – which reminds us to thank You then

for the Senses, without which we could not see a smile, the harvest moon, the trees or a deer, without which we could not hear a child’s giggle or words of love, without which we could not smell a bouquet of flowers or danger from the car’s engine; without the sense we could not feel an embrace, or taste our food; and without our senses we would not be able to visualize Jesus, who was God in human form, with eyes and ears, who touched and fed, and made us then to be His eyes, ears and hands, and so we see and feel what breaks God’s heart, giving us more cause for thanks for the privilege of being the answer to somebody else’s prayer to God for help – and therefore, strangely, we thank You then

for Frustration, that inner instinct You have woven into our souls about how things ought to be, a keen awareness that the world is broken, and that things are out of sync not just with our wishes but with your will, so we know to right things, not to be complacent, and thus we thank You for the labors of justice and mercy You to which You call us – and therefore we even realize to thank You

for the Outcasts, the people nobody else wants, the despised, ostracized, or hurt, who are never invited to anything or honored by anybody, who strike us as weird or scary, and yet we know they are not weird to You, but much beloved – and so we thank You for them as they remind us of the breadth and depth of Your love, they help us to reconcile with the secret strangenesses in our own selves, and gift us with the lovely labor of hospitality – something on which was founded another cause for gratitude,

for our Nation, that like all people on God’s good earth, we take pride in our homeland, and pray for better, truer days when we live out our ideals of virtue and striving together for the common good; we might actually be grateful for who we are, and pray for our leaders more than we rage and complain, and even find the way to peace with others who love their nations – and to do so we are aided in all these endeavors by the special people You have raised up to bless us, as we thank You

for Heroes and Saints, many of whom we have known, and miss this day, many we have only read about in storybooks or the Scriptures, and yet they inspire us, and prove the nobility You have planted deeply in all of us, which we will never realize until we learn to give You thanks

for Sacrifice, increasingly undervalued and shunned in our society; yet we rejoice that sacrifice has always been at the very heart of Your way in saving us, and sacrifice remains the highest calling to which we might aspire – and the very idea of “aspiring” stirs us to give thanks to You

for Transcendence, that implacable desire to reach beyond merely what we see, or what we can achieve for ourselves, to soar beyond all we can know or manage, and reach out to You, only to discover You have been not just reaching out to but also embracing us all along when we were too foolish to notice, and that our restlessness is nothing less than You calling us home to Your own loving heart – glimpses of which You grant us constantly, as we thank You  

for Beauty, not the shiny baubles we can purchase, but the wrinkled smiling face of a grandmother, the stunning hues in the clouds at sunset, the pinpricks of nighttime light that have been streaming our way for years, a wildflower, a country hillside, an old white A-frame church, a family photo, the autumn leaves, whose beauty is defined in their moment of death, whose frightening specter gives us cause for perhaps the deepest gratitude of all –

for Hope, that there is a future, even beyond what we get done in this life, a day with no sorrow, no failure of gratitude, and all will be praise, celebration, and delight, and we will cavort with saints, and sinners, outcasts and those we have lost, praising you forever and ever.

O Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is Good (Psalm 118:1). What shall I render to the Lord for all His bounty? I will lift up the sacrifice of Thanksgiving, and call on the name of the Lord (Psalm 116:17).