Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. It is the best of American traditions. We’ve been commemorating it since 1621; next year it will be exactly 400 years. By pausing to reflect on what we are thankful for, we come to realize how very blessed we are.
When you sow gratitude generously, scattering the seeds in the fields of people’s hearts, it grows like the pumpkins pictured above. In fact, gratitude multiplies exponentially. If you offer even the tiniest morsel of thankfulness, you start to feel thankful, and that leads you to express more gratitude, which makes you feel even more grateful. It also helps you remember those who aren’t as fortunate.
Tomorrow, when you are seated around the table, whether it’s a physical one or a virtual one, and you are asked what you are thankful for, I hope there are so many things fighting for you to say that you have trouble choosing. I know that’s how it will be for me.
Below are four Thanksgiving prayers, one for each century, for you to use as a conversation starter or read as grace before the meal. The sources they come from couldn’t be more varied. I hope you will have a blessed Thanksgiving!
1900s – Dear Abby’s Thanksgiving Prayer
Oh, Heavenly Father,
We thank Thee for food and remember the hungry.
We thank Thee for health and remember the sick.
We thank Thee for friends and remember the friendless.
We thank Thee for freedom and remember the enslaved.
May these remembrances stir us to service,
That Thy gifts to us may be used for others.
1600s – A Puritan Prayer of Thanksgiving
I thank Thee for the temporal blessings of this world. The refreshing air. The light of the sun. The food that renews strength. The raiment that clothes. The dwelling that shelters. The sleep that gives rest. The starry canopy of night. The summer’s breeze. The flowers’ sweetness. The music of flowing streams. The happy endearments of family, kindred, friends.
Things animate and things inanimate minister to my comfort. My cup runs over. Suffer me not to be insensible to these daily mercies. Thy hand bestows blessings. Thy power averts evil.
I bring my tribute of thanks for spiritual graces. The full warmth of faith. The cheering presence of Thy Spirit. The strength of Thy restraining will. Thy spiking of hell’s artillery. Blessed be my sovereign Lord!
1800s – Abraham Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation
President Lincoln issued this in 1863, while the country was engulfed in Civil War, officially declaring a national holiday.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God….
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God…
It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them … commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
1700s – George Washington’s Thanksgiving Prayer
This is part of President Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation, issued on October 3, 1789, during the first year of his presidency.
May we all unite in rendering unto God our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country, for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have enjoyed, for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge, and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.
And may we also unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all nations and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord, to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science, and generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.