There’s an old adage that says, “You can choose your friends; you’re stuck with family.” Too true, perhaps. We all long for the ideal, whole and functional family, but too often we’re “stuck” between fractured and turbulent relationships with those who should be closest to us. For this reason family reunion times like Thanksgiving dinner can be among the most stressful and disappointing seasons of the year: All the more reason to say “Grace” – and mean it.
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Prayer before Thanksgiving dinner is part of tradition, for many families. But it can be much more than a ritual. Prayer is our admission that we desperately need God’s presence and blessing in our lives. And where more than in our families! Prayer is our fitting way of saying “Thank you” to God for all our blessings and also admitting that without him we’re doomed to failure. Nowhere is our ineptitude more evident than in family relationships. For this reason prayer is more necessary for the Thanksgiving meal than turkey and cranberry sauce.
Here’s one model for Thanksgiving table prayer for those of us with “less than ideal” family situations.
“God, this is a day for saying ‘Thank you,’ and acknowledging that you are the source of all the blessings we enjoy. In spite of all the challenges we face, we are richly blessed. ‘Thank you.’ This is also a time for us to gather as a family and ask for your help and healing. You never promise that our lives will be easy; but you do promise strength, and the wisdom we need to prevail. ‘Thank you.’ You are welcome here at our table. At times we fall short of being everything you have intended for us. But this is why we pray: to express our gratitude and to ask what we cannot make happen on our own. Bless our conversation, and this food. And when we come back together next year, may we be able to recognize the ways that you have brought us closer – as individuals and as a family – to the destiny you have for us. We say again, ahead of time, ‘Thank you,’ in Jesus’ name.”