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.