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Prayer, Plain and Simple

Prayer, Plain and Simple

Thanksgiving Prayer: For Families who have Lost a Loved One

posted by Mark Herringshaw

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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.”     

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Thanksgiving Prayer: Praying to be a Blessing

posted by nsymmonds

For the first time in probably five years, if not more, I am spending Thanksgiving with my family. It is not because I was estranged from them, but more so because the cost of plane tickets deterred me from going. But this year, a way was made for me to be with them and I am extremely grateful and excited about having the opportunity to catch up with everyone. As such, I’ve been thinking about what I will bring with me on this trip.

It started out as a bottle of wine, but then I realized that for the number of people that will probably be at dinner, I would not be able to afford that many bottles. (Besides the fact that it’s illegal to take wine across state lines because of all the rules and regulations surrounding the spirit.) Then I thought that I would bring cupcakes, but then I realized not only would it be impossible to get them through airport security without them suggesting that the icing counts toward that fluid restriction, but my family aren’t cupcake eaters. Then I thought that I might write a prayer or recite a scripture before dinner, as if I were the family minister. It seemed to make logical sense since there is this notion that I am the “goody two shoes” of the clan. But that didn’t seem right either. And then it dawned on me, I don’t have to bring anything with me to present to them besides just bringing myself.

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Now this is not to say I think I’m God’s gift to mankind. No, it is more about offering myself up and preparing myself to be a blessing to my family. You see, anytime we go somewhere or see someone, there is a level of preparation that must take place. And our families should not be excluded from this process of preparation. This preparation I am referring to goes beyond making sure you packed the right clothes. This is about bringing the right kind of mindset, bringing an open heart and having a willing spirit. In church we talk a lot about preparing ourselves for worship and how that preparation doesn’t just begin the night before service, it starts from the moment we step out of service. We start applying all that we’ve heard in service to our lives as soon as we exit the sanctuary. We prepare for worship Sunday to Sunday with no break in between by worshipping throughout the week, reading the Bible, praising God and praying. I believe our preparation to see our loved ones this week can be just as sacred.

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So as many look toward traveling to see family, friends, and loved ones this Thanksgiving, here is a prayer to prepare yourself as a blessing:

Heavenly Father,
 
I thank you for the blessing of family and friends and I thank you for making a way for people to spend time with the ones whom they love during this holiday. As we pack our bags to hop on planes, trains, and in automobiles, may we be mindful of the spirit that we are bringing with us. Give us a joyful spirit so that we may enter our family and friend’s homes with thanksgiving in our hearts just as we enter your gates with thanksgiving in our hearts. Let us enter the homes we will visit with praise for those who have opened their homes up to us. For those of us who may be entering into broken homes or fragmented and dysfunctional family situations, give us hearts that forgive and spirits bent on reconciliation and mercy. Help us to be mindful of our every thought, word, and deed in the midst of our loved ones. Season our speech with kind words and words of encouragement. Open our hearts to love and kindness. Let our every deed be an out flowing of the love you have shown us. Bless our time with our families, friends, and loved ones and make us all better for it. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Thanksgiving Prayer: ‘Saying Grace’ when a Loved One is Missing

posted by Mark Herringshaw

There will be two empty chairs at our Thanksgiving table this year. One I’ll talk about tomorrow. The other will represent our daughter Ellie who graduated from high school last December and two weeks later hopped on a plane for Africa. She’ll spend Thanksgiving in Zimbabwe with her team of young medical workers. Three are Americans so they’ll do something special on Thursday.

We will too. Ellie has been in Africa for nearly a year and she’ll be home just before Christmas. But our Thanksgiving feast will be bitter-sweet. We are thankful for her passion and commitment to help make people live better lives and to share God’s love; we’re also missing her and wishing she could be with us. That tension will be very real around our table on Thursday. One thing is for sure: we’ll pray for her by name when we say grace before we eat.

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Many of us will have someone we love missing from the table this year. Maybe a loved one is serving in the armed forces. Maybe a family member lives across the country and couldn’t make the trip. Circumstances often separate us, and special times only make us miss them more.

What to do? When we’re apart it’s a good time to pray for the one’s we love. Here’s a model prayer for Thursday dinner if your family will have an empty chair around the table.

“Dear God, we’re gathered as a family to say ‘Thank you,’ for all the blessings you have given us. We thank you for life and provision and protection. We thank you too for the relationships you have created represented around this table. Family ties and friendships, for all their complexity, are your great gift to us. We pray that today would be an opportunity for us to renew and build on our relationships. We ask for your blessing in this. We also ask your blessing for (name of missing loved one). He/She is a rich part of this celebration, though she/he can’t be here with us. Express your love and ours to her/him today. Strengthen our ties, though we are apart. And when we are together again, help us to remember that your gifts are made more precious when we have a chance to long for them. Thank you again for all your promises and your faithfulness to bring them about. In Jesus we pray…”  

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Thanksgiving Prayer: Dinner Prayer for Not-So-Perfect Families

posted by Mark Herringshaw

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.

Quotes on Thankfulness  Thanksgiving Recipes  Thanksgiving Quiz Have a Better Thanksgiving 

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.

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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.”  

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