What to Say in a Thanksgiving Prayer

How to Get People Involved at Thanksgiving

One of the greatest holidays of the year is Thanksgiving. Nothing compares to the love and laughter that brims from within a houseful of family members, bringing back old memories as new ones form. Excited as the swirling aroma of stuffing, candied yams, honeyed ham, and pecan pie awakens the senses, Thanksgiving truly is a time to take a step back and reflect on the blessings that have been given to us. Here are some great ways you can pray before the meal. Some are techniques, some are just ideas of topics to bring up; general ideas that are probably bothering a family member but they refuse to say so. Hope they help- and Happy Thanksgiving!

1. Pass It On

This is a fun thing to do at Thanksgiving, especially if you haven’t seen people for a while. Here, one family member will begin the prayer and then share something that they are thankful for. Whether it is something their child has learned (or taught them), that they’ll graduate college in the fall, or the car loan is paid off; it doesn’t matter. They’re just sharing their appreciation with their family and the Lord. When it makes it back around the table, have whoever began the prayer now end it, usually with a simple Amen.

2. Don’t sound Bored

Ok, if you agree to lead the prayer you do not have to sound sentenced to death or like you are standing in front of a corporate law firm. I know family members are often the most judgmental, but unless they want to eat somewhere else, your prayer is top priority when it comes to that turkey everyone’s been eying. So, calm down, take a deep breath, heck, count to ten if you need it, and figure out what you want to include in your prayer. That way, you don’t open your eyes to heads rising in question or in mockery.

3. Pre-plan

It’s always better to know what you’re going to say before you start. I’m not saying memorize a prayer and stammer like a nervous ninth grader. No, think of a basic outline of events/points that you would like to include in your prayer and build from it. If you know your Uncle is having heart trouble, your niece just got a new job, and your sister just got engaged, flag and tag these things. This is vital info and people love to be included. It is nice to know that someone is thinking about them and the warmth of prayer is immeasurable.

4. Make it Personal

The greatest pastors, friends, and teachers are the ones who are willing to be themselves, with the courage to face the world without the fear of judgment. Take this blessing and make it your own. There are multiple ways to do this, and one of the most common is simply to tell a story, interweaving things from a job, daily activities, memories, or even dreams to show your appreciation for life. In doing so, people are not only more attentive, but they believe what you are saying.

5. Laugh it Up

Many people approach prayer from a comedian’s standpoint, allowing them the wit and sensibility to humor a crowd while no one intervenes. In moderation, this is also highly successful. You do have to know when to do what. I mean, death will never be a laughing matter, and if people are uncomfortable about certain subjects (like a recent wedding in Reno) it’s probably best to let it lie. However, you can rub Johnny’s head and bless a growth spurt, wave your hand in the air and thank Grandma, and place your hand over your heart to bless the troops unable to be with their families tonight.

6. Health 101

Pray for the sick. Pray for those you know and for those you don’t know. Thank God for the health of your friends, family, and coworkers. In extreme situations, such as Hurricane Ike, lift up all affected, and ask the Lord to be by their side, making clean up easy and helping expenses get paid. It is times like these when normal questions become extreme and people become overly stressed. Keep them in your prayers as electricity and water returns across Texas and lives slowly, but surely, begin to rebuild.

7. Thank You

Giving thanks has always been my favorite way to open a prayer, and on Thanksgiving, it’s a must. Beginning with a line like, Thank you for this day or Blessed father we gather around this table to thank you for this food, it brings people together and puts them back in the spirit of Thanksgiving, which can easily be overlooked in the ruckus of chit chat, turkey grilling, and kitchen chaos. Which, for most of us is inevitable.

But what would Thanksgiving be without Aunt Edna’s running late, Bertha’s burnt rolls, and Uncle Frank’s homemade wines, not to mention Grandpa’s tales that are beginning to verge on fiction but still ever-captivating? Give thanks to remind everyone of your love, to remind them of their blessings, and to remind them of God’s grace. Bless what lies before you and the challenges you have already faced.

8. Bless the New Year

It is not everyday that friends and family gather together for a meal, so for a moment, stop, and take a look at the year gone by. What were your struggles at last year’s Thanksgiving dinner? Is there a cancer survivor in the room? What about a newly diagnosed patient? Newlyweds, divorcees, babies, and first year employees are also huge differences in a person’s life, you can point out things that have changed, thanking God for his blessings, while interweaving the needs of others.

9. Ask for Requests

Prayer requests are an awesome way to get people involved in group prayer. It also proves to the leader that someone is listening. (Gotta make them feel a little better.) It’s best to think about the crowd you are praying before though, because if no one is going to respond, this technique is really not effective and it can be quite intimidating.

Requests are incredibly simple though. After you have finished your prayer, ask “does anyone have any requests or anything they would like to pray over?” Give some examples if you think you feel someone mulling over the idea. Now, people lift up any and everything- fears, worries, and pains.

10. Give a Sound Closing.

End on a strong God centered note, like “Thank you for your love. Thank you for your sacrifice, and thank you, Jesus, for this meal.”

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