This post is about the unique Thanksgiving season we have been given in 2020. It’s a post about wrestling with the tension of giving thanks during worldwide calamity. It’s about giving thanks on a holiday whose history can’t be disconnected from racism and violence. These tensions are not insurmountable; praying through them has been transformational for me this week. In this post I’ve written two different prayers of thanksgiving that I hope might minister to you. If you find both gratefulness and pain in your heart this holiday season, let them exist together and draw you nearer to the one who is King over them all.
As 2020 draws to a close we find ourselves in a season of unusual preparations for unusual holiday celebrations: a Thanksgiving without gathering, where we might make our own Turkeys for the first time, where we might ditch the turkey altogether, where giving thanks reminds us of the pain that surrounds both the beautiful and ordinary.
There is tension as we prepare. But instead of letting tension fester into bitterness what if we let it shape our giving of thanks? What if we let it take on a depth and tone that it hasn’t before? This tension is going to define my Christmas season and I was recently reflecting on how if will also define Thanksgiving.
So today I’m sharing two prayers I’ve written.
The first is written as a reflection on the year 1621, the year of the feast that inspired our modern holiday. This prayer is from my perspective as a white descendent of European immigrants. I wrote it because my heart has been transformed by lament and identifying with the ethnic pain of my past for the sake of moving forward into healing. This is important to me as a white American, but if the concept of taking ownership of the sins of a whole ethnic group makes you uncomfortable or angry, please just move past the first prayer and onto the second.
The second is a prayer of thanksgiving in light of the pain and beauty of the present. This year, perhaps more than any other, I’ve felt the tension of these elements existing side by side while, all the while, knowing Jesus is Lord over them all. I hope this prayer might help you embrace that tension and reflect on his goodness in it.
So, this Thanksgiving, even if you’re just gathering as two or three, remember to pray. To embrace how your blessings and pains beside each other, and that God has a redemptive purpose for it all.
The prayers are below both in text and image form. Both are free to save and share. Please do if it is helpful to you. And happy Thanksgiving!
We pray in light of 1621:
We remember that we came as strangers to this land. Help us also remember we are strangers on this earth.
We remember that we were cold, hungry, sick, and dying. But your kindness through the Wampanoag sustained our lives. May we not stop looking for ways to honor their descendants.
We are guilty of mistreating a people who showed kindness. Lord in our present lives may we not be people who steal, destroy, or disadvantage.
Thank you that history has lessons to teach, may we ever maintain the posture of humble students.
We pray in light of 2020:
Thank you that though we walk in the shadows of racism, corruption, pandemic, disunity, and grief, a day is coming when all shall be made right. We live in the tension of hope.
Thank you that in this pandemic you have preserved our lives. Oh God, be near to those who have seen loss.
Thank you for all who have labored diligently to maintain our safety from illness. Save us from any pride and sin that might prove their efforts to have been in vain.
Thank you for our families, that you have knit us together through flesh and blood. Save us from disunity that threatens.
Thank you for our scars, they are proof that healing has covered hurt.
Thank you that our food supply is secure.
Thank you that we do not shiver in the night.
Thank you for music that ministers to our souls.
Thank you that you have created people in your image to be your hands and feet. Help us be active in this image and identity.
Thank you for the cross. Without it all else is foolishness.
Lord God, we love you. Keep us ever on our knees before you.
We give thanks.
The images are posted below, I made them the dimensions of a typical phone screen since most of us read things on our phones. I’d love to know if any of these spoke to you or helped you in your own prayer life this holiday week. And, as always, follow along with the blog by subscribing if you haven’t yet!