Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple


Thanksgiving Prayer: Table Grace Pressure

posted by Mark Herringshaw

The turkey is on the table and everyone is seated. Now what? It’s time to say “Grace.” Okay… Now what?

Saying “Grace” before the meal, especially a big and important one like Thanksgiving can be laborious and awkward. The cook has to deliver the goods and feels the pressure to perform; so does the designated-pray-er. That too better be good!

Many of us have a hard time praying aloud. Much of our hesitation comes from the universally accepted fact that we really don’t know how to “do it right.” After all, when we pray, we’re addressing the King of the Universe: shouldn’t we follow right protocol? We attend worship services and hear “professionals” saying prayers with pomp and words wrapped in high-ordered rhetoric. It’s easy to feel like a proper public prayer is beyond our aptitude, so we often avoid it all together… until we’re drafted and assigned the task of “saying the prayer” at this Thanksgiving gorge-fest. It’s that or washing pots and pans after the feast!

If you’re wondering what to say to God this coming Thursday, you’re not alone. Over the next few days I’m going to post a few common sense suggestions about “saying Grace.”

The first point: Relax.

Yes, relax. There is not a “right way” to pray. Prayer is talking to God and addressing him simply and honestly and directly in your own format. That’s all he really wants and expects. Contrary to tradition, prayer is not a performance; it’s a dialog, even at the Thanksgiving dinner table. My dear father-in-law was once asked to say the prayer at a family feast. He sat at the end of the table and spoke softly, as he’s prone to do. In the middle of his prayer one my wife’s brothers – then in his teens – barked out, “Dad, we can’t hear you!” He answered, “Well I’m not talking to you,” and went right on speaking to God as he saw fit, simply and directly and in his own tone and volume.

In my book (co-authored with Jennifer Schuchmann) “Six Prayers God Always Answers – Results May Vary” I address this question of “prayer performance” straight away.

Prayer doesn’t work. God works.

We often get that confused, don’t we?

We think there is a certain formula we have to follow–a right way of doing prayer. If we do it right, God answers. It’s like using the correct postage after a rate change, the proper stamp ensures delivery. But when our prayers don’t get answered, we believe we’re somehow at fault. We prayed the “wrong” way. There are lots of ways we could have screwed up–not enough postage (or good deeds), mislabeled the envelope (prayed to God when we should have prayed to Jesus) or forgot to seal it (with a promise to do better next time).

If that’s how you think, this isn’t the book for you. The authors don’t believe in a right way or a wrong way. Yes, biblical literature, church history, and religious traditions present some great guidelines when you need an example to follow, but the truth is, prayer is nothing more than communication with God. Some of us prefer long, elegantly handwritten notes on premium stationery. Others prefer text messages with abbreviated words that aren’t grammatically correct (and that parents can’t decipher). But regardless of how we pray, it isn’t prayer that changes things. It’s God who changes things.

Sometimes, we forget that.

We’re so caught up in our own, or someone else’s, expectations of what prayer looks and smells like, that when we look for God’s reply we limit our thinking to a #10 business envelope, when perhaps God is answering us with a marshmallow, an old lady’s smile, or something else so completely unexpected that we miss his reply.

Prayer is really a simple matter. Shoot straight and direct. Tell the truth. Use plain language. Be specific. All the ordinary ways that communication works best between persons works best with God as well, even on Thanksgiving.

If you’d like to dive into the conversation with advice or questions or additional resources for “saying Grace” on Thanksgiving, all the better.



  • Your Name

    When we say a prayer,we speak it through our mouth and believe in our hearts that our prayers are answerd.This thanksgiving,may every knee
    shall bow down to say thank you to our God.

  • LATINA

    When I was taught to pray silently, aloud, or with others- I was taught to always start with
    1)address: (one of the following)Our Father, dear Lord, dear God
    2)a nice greeting: I’m happy to be here today with my family, or it’s such a beautiful day today or As I come to you with such joy…(what ever greeting you wish…sad, happy – how ever you feel just like you would greet your best friend)
    3)what you are want to say: asking for, thanking him for, or just commenting or sharing with him about something. Or all three!
    4)end the prayer with what you did: I ask you this,I thank you for this, I pray(speak) to you about this…AND THEN SAY “IN JESUS’NAME.”
    5)LAST BUT NOT LEAST YOU AND EVERYONE SAYS: AMEN (THIS MEANS’YES’YOU AGREE)

Previous Posts

Learning to Pray
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will do this: He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, and the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.” (Psalm 37:5) Children learn to talk. We too have been learning, talking with God in fits and starts ourselves. We half imagi

posted 10:23:14am Sep. 18, 2014 | read full post »

The Holy Spirit Prays Through You
  “And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words.” (Romans 8:26) Prayer is often expressed in words, our words. God values words. Words matter and

posted 9:05:27am Sep. 17, 2014 | read full post »

Jesus Prays For You
John 17… The night Jesus was arrested he prayed to the Father for all his followers, including you and me. While we pray to God in Jesus’s name it’s amazingly encouraging to know he prays for us. Today’s prayer – let Jesus pray for you! Find a Bible and John 17. Find a private place

posted 2:29:50pm Sep. 15, 2014 | read full post »

Seeing Eye to Eye With Jesus
"The eye is the lamp of the body. So if your eye is sound, your entire body will be full of light."        ~Matthew 6:22 About a decade ago as I was helping our son Michael bundle up on a cool Fall Minnesota day before he hopped on the school bus, he told me about a gentleman that came to re

posted 1:34:26pm Sep. 05, 2014 | read full post »

A Prayer for our Children in School
"I pray that your love will overflow more and more, and that you will keep on growing in knowledge and understanding." Philippians 1:9 Paul prayed this for his beloved spiritual children. Let us join him in praying for the children in our lives as they embark on a new school year. Our Father,

posted 10:34:40am Aug. 28, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.