Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Thanksgiving Prayer: For Families who have Lost a Loved One

The big chair at the end of the Thanksgiving dinner table will be empty this year. My father died a year ago last April. I tell about his story and mine in my book, “The Karma of Jesus.” Yes, I miss him always; I’ll miss him deeply on Thanksgiving.

My father loved to tinker in the kitchen. Some of my earliest memories involve watching him artfully wrestle the turkey into and out of the oven, then stand over it, slicing it and smirking at my mother as he “sampled” the juiciest scraps that somehow, conveniently never made it to the platter. That’s what I see when I think “Thanksgiving.” I see Dad.


But my father isn’t with us this year. I’m thankful for all that he brought to my life, and for the good years I had with him. But still, there’s a bitter sweet undertone of sadness and emptiness as we move toward Thursday. I cannot and probably never will – or should – separate Thanksgiving and my memories of him.

Many of us will be sitting down for Thanksgiving dinner this year having lost a loved one in death. The holidays are difficult because so many memories of friends and family passed are attached to the smells and tastes and sounds and faces of these special days. These memories call up unspoken blends of sorrow and joy and humor and regret. The holidays can bring grief.


But is there a way to honor our memories of those who have passed and to elevate them and use them as a way to build family unity? I believe so… in prayer. In prayer we invite God, ever present to bring a miracle into the mix of our grief. He can; he does; he will, when we pray.  

Thanksgiving dinner prayer is an enriching opportunity to look backward and forward in our grief, and as we do to relish the present moment. By expressing our obvious loss to God we give him a chance to transform our grief into true joy and hope.

In your table grace this Thursday, consider bringing to God the loneliness you feel from missing your loved one. Invite God to set his tone for the day and to offer his perspective, to heal sorrow and bring his miraculous gift of hope. It’s not natural of course, but it’s “super-natural.”


Here’s one model of prayer for those of us who have recently lost a loved one in death.

“Dear God, we are here to express our gratitude for all your blessings. You have given us so much, not only providing what we need to live, but in giving us yourself. We are richly blessed, and it is right to acknowledge that you are the source of all good things. Yet this day also brings a mix of emotions to us. We confess our thanks, but also our sadness because of the empty place at our table. We know that death and sorrow were not your original plan, but we also know that you use difficulties to draw us closer to you and to each another. Here and now fill the empty places in our hearts and this empty place at our table. Teach us to savor the moments we have with one another, to rightly remember what we have lost, but also to look forward in hope to what we have promised in the future. We say again, ‘Your love is better than life.’ Thank you for all your blessings, for even through trials and loss you always, somehow reveal your goodness. In Jesus we pray.”     

  • Karen Cipriani

    What a beautiful and inspiring article. Thank you, Mark, for your wisdom and insight. I lost my father-in-law a few months ago and we will also have an empty place at our table. We will be using your idea of creating a prayer to say and will also be lighting a candle in honor of him during the prayer.
    I wish you peace during this difficult time. Thank you again. You have a gift.

  • Ana Caballero-Lindblom

    Thank you for this prayer. My Mom passed 11 days ago and I have done the family prayer at Thanksgiving dinner since I was 10, I am now 40. I will use this as my outline so I thank you very much. My Mom passed with breast cancer and even though she is not right in front of me, my Mom Maribel Guerrero Campos March 15, 1938 – Nov 14, 2009 will live in all of our hearts forever.
    San Francisco, Ca

  • sarah kie….

    i like this because my gram and my aunt just passed away and my gram asked be to do the thanksgiving prayer so i found this one, and i really like it

  • sarah kie….

    i like this because my gram and my aunt just passed away and my gram asked be to do the thanksgiving prayer so i found this one, and i really like it

  • Debbie – Fort Pierce Florida

    Thank-you for this Beautiful prayer. My Mother passed away last New Years Eve & my family is just trying to get thru all of the “first’s” this year. I was looking for a prayer to share tonight that not only said how we feel about missing my wonderful Mother, but also about the joy & memories that she left in our hearts & how Thankful I am for these memories. Happy Thanksgiving and may God bless you & yours.

  • Denise Burks

    I want to thank you for this prayer. My brother just recently passed 11/30/09 of colon cancer and last year I lost my son who 22months to leukemia. My strength through all of this is weaken and I thank god he sends his angel to let us know we are not alone.
    Thank You for beautiful prayer.

  • mike

    sorry ana about your loss of mom may god bless you

  • Wanda Holland

    This year the holidays will be hard for my family. In May my only son was killed in a wreck, in September my mother passed away.Stevon or Stebo as he was called was the glue that held us together, his 5 sisters are still griving over his loss. The death of a child is so over whaming, we love & miss him, but we know that our Lord makes no mistakes.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Gezele

    This is beautiful and so true. I just lost my Mom to cnacer a few weeks ago and this is our First Thanksgiving without her… is going to be so hard.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Kim

    Thank you for this prayer. My father passed away from lung cancer on June 29th this year. This is the first family holiday that we will be without him. My friend’s father died over a month ago, and her family is coming over for Thanksgiving with my family. I don’t want it to be a weepy meal but I also want to aknowledge our Dads in a good way. This is a great prayer. Thank you.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Robin

    This year has been so bad. We lost my aunt due to a stroke and then a week later my 5 year old niece died and we still don’t know what caused her death. I’m no no mood for prayers right now, much less celebrating. I have no reason to celebrate. I don’t know if it gets any easier later on, but I’m just not in the mood. Nothing makes sense right now.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Ben

    My mom passed away two weeks ago and I was wondering what to say when me, my brother and 2 sisters as wellas our families get together for Thanksgiving. I think this will be perfect for the situation.

  • Pingback: More Thanksgiving Prayers and Videos via Twitter « Church Mojo

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Joetta Cornwell

    In Loving Memory of my sister Teresa who passed in April 2012. Know that you are in our thoughts today and we love and miss you. But we know you are watching from above and still comfort us with your memories.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment Ghetz

    My only son died last July,he was hit by a car in the parking lot. Last October my brother in law passed away from cirrhosis. This year for me was very tragic. I don’t know what to pray anymore,this is to much to bear. Just,surreal!

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