A Thanksgiving Prayer
The event that Americans commonly call Thanksgiving was celebrated by the pilgrims after their first harvest in 1621. History says it was attended by 90 Native Americans and 53 Pilgrims. The gathering lasted 3 days. Our first President, George Washington, issued a proclamation of Thanksgiving in 1789, after which it was celebrated intermittently. Abraham Lincoln issued one, as well, in 1863 and made it a national holiday. He called it “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”
Washington’s and Lincoln’s proclamations are brilliant and can be found at the end of today’s post. The verbiage is a bit different than ours today and somewhat challenging, especially for children. Here is a contemporary proclamation I have written. Agree with me as I read it today:
Gracious Father, we in this blessed nation give You thanks today. America was Your idea. You had in Your heart to form a nation of nations - numerous Native American nations, Asians, Europeans, Africans, Latinos and more. Though the journey and process has at times been painful, even evil, due to our selfishness and rebellion, Your sovereign power overrode our flaws and formed the United States of America. And we thank You.
We are well aware that forming America was not just for our benefit but, like Abraham of old, was a covenantal partnership for the purpose of redeeming the world from sin and its curse. We are honored beyond words to be part of this plan and agree with the words of Robert Hunt at Cape Henry in 1607: the gospel of the kingdom will go forth from these shores, not only to this land, but to all the nations of the earth.
We thank You for preserving us in times of war, disease, sin, and chaos. In the war of our birth, we were saved through an appeal to Heaven; in the horrible Civil War, You preserved us through incredible bitterness and the loss of over half a million soldiers - sons, husbands, fathers, brothers; in two world wars, You preserved us from evil, demonized despots intent on ruling the world. Through all the trials and all the years, You have been faithful.
We thank You for the incredible prosperity we have enjoyed due to our partnership with You. Though some try to convince our people You had nothing to do with this, that America does not need Your gracious hand of blessing, we know this is untrue. Unless You build the house, the laborers work in vain; unless You protect the city, the watchman wakes in vain. You have blessed this nation - of You, through You, and to You are all things. Thank You, gracious and beneficent God!
And we thank You today for our Savior, the Messiah, Christ Jesus. Son of God/Son of Man, thank You for Your sacrifice in becoming a member of the human race. Thank You for discovering what hunger feels like, for experiencing the pain of a loved one’s death, of rejection and betrayal. Thank You for walking dusty roads to heal diseased bodies, taking detours to redeem thirsty hearts, spending sleepless nights praying over Your assignment. Thank you for exposing the futility of religion, the evil of pride and the power of love. Thank You for revealing the Father to us again, and making a way for us to find and reconnect with Him as our Abba. Thank You for paying such a high price for this: the beatings and lashing, Gethsemane, the mocking, the crown of thorns, the wrath of Hell, the hideous cross. Thank You.
And gracious Father, wonderful Savior, and blessed Holy Spirit, though we as a nation have dishonored You, rejected You and mocked You, Your love endures. Though we have worshiped idols, embraced false religions, shed innocent blood, defiled Your marriage covenant and expelled You from our schools, causing our children to reject You, Your mercies endure. Though our government, in pride, deception, and rebellion, has risen up against You, rewritten Your laws, legislated murder and immorality, and has determined that You are no longer welcome in their functions and procedures - You have demonstrated amazing patience. And though the church should be Your instrument of preservation from these ills, she has grown lukewarm, complacent, and ineffective. Yet, in spite of these and many more evils, You have said You are coming to save us again. You have promised to renew our purpose and destiny, healing our brokenness and returning our hearts to You and one another. Our prodigals are coming home, a lost generation is being found by You, the fire of passion is returning to the church, millions will be saved, and America will be reformed. We will once again become a powerful voice of the gospel of the kingdom throughout the earth, partnering with You through the power of Holy Spirit. For this we give You thanks.
Father, we are thankful for the United States of America. We are thankful for the covenants our Christian forefathers made with You. They sacrificed more than we can ever imagine in order to fulfill Your will in their generation. They knew they were sent here to dedicate this land to You and Your divine purposes. Therefore, we thank You, Lord, for those sacrifices made so long ago. May those that prayed, endured much hardship, fought, and established America be forever honored by future generations of believers. We are so grateful for the blessings of the covenants that were established with You in those days.
May every believer today remember to thank You for those covenants. Your promises are eternal. We may break them, but You never do. You will always find a way to partner with Your Ekklesia to see them restored, when we humble ourselves in prayer before You. For that mercy extended to us time and again, and so many other things, we thank You. Provide our leaders with the grace they need to lead this great country. Provide mercy for America to maintain our covenants with You. In Christ’s name we pray, Amen.
President George Washington’s Thanksgiving Proclamation:
“Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor-- and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public Thanksgiving and Prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.
“Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be - That we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks--for His kind care and protection of the People of this Country previous to their becoming a Nation--for the signal and manifold mercies, and the favorable interpositions of His Providence which we experienced in the course and conclusion of the late war--for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty, which we have since enjoyed - for the peaceable and rational manner, in which we have been enabled to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted - for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed; and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and in general for all the great and various favors which He hath been pleased to confer upon us.
“And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions - to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually - to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed - to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord - To promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us - and generally to grant unto all Mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
“Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.” (George Washington)(1)
President Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Proclamation:
“The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever-watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defense, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle, or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. The population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege, and the battlefield; and the country, rejoicing in the consciousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently, and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity, and union.
“In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
“Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the United States the Eighty-eighth. By the President: Abraham Lincoln.”(2)
We acknowledge God alone as the source of all good gifts, including the freedoms and prosperity that thrive in the United States of America.
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