You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but it’s two days until Thanksgiving.
Many around me have spent the month of November striving to be more thankful. Perhaps you’ve seen the posts on social media, listing a new tidbit of thankfulness each day this month. That seems to be in the spirit of the original intent of the holiday.
After all, what is Thanksgiving if it isn’t designed to turn our hearts toward . . . prayer.
Oh, not what you were expecting?
Origins of Thanksgiving
FORASMUCH as it is the indispensable Duty of all Men to adore the superintending Providence of Almighty God; to acknowledge with Gratitude their Obligation to him for Benefits received, and to implore such farther Blessings as they stand in Need of . . . ~First United States National Thanksgiving Proclamation, November 1777, Continental Congress
Although much debate swirls around where and when the first Thanksgiving on American soil happened, we can safely proclaim that it didn’t originate within the borders of what would become known as the United States.
For millennia, ceremonies and celebrations have been common throughout the world after harvest. During the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s, the leaders decided to decrease the number of church holidays. They opted for specially called Days of Fasting and Days of Thanksgiving.
The Focus of Thanksgiving Laid Out by Congress
Our Thanksgiving today actually looks quite different from what our forefathers imagined. Consider these words from the Thanksgiving Proclamation of 1778, issued by the Continental Congress:
It having pleased Almighty God, through the course of the present year, to bestow great and manifold mercies on the people of these United States; and it being the indispensable duty of all men gratefully to acknowledge their obligations to Him for benefits received:
Resolved, That it be, and hereby is recommended to the legislative or executive authority of each of the said states, to appoint Wednesday, the 30th day of December next, to be observed as a day of public thanksgiving and praise, that all the people may, with united hearts, on that day, express a just sense of his unmerited favors; particularly in that it hath pleased him, by his overruling providence, to support us in a just and necessary war, for the defense of our rights and liberties, by affording us seasonable supplies for our armies, by disposing the heart of a powerful monarch to enter into alliance with us, and aid our cause; by defeating the councils and evil designs of our enemies, and giving us victory over their troops; and, by the continuance of that union among these states, which, by his blessing, will be their future strength and glory.
And it is further recommended, that, together with devout thanksgiving, may be joined a penitent confession of our sins, and humble supplication for pardon, through the merits of our Savior; so that, under the smiles of Heaven, our public councils may be directed, our arms by land and sea prospered, our liberty and independence secured, our schools and seminaries of learning flourish, our trade be revived, our husbandry and manufactures encreased, and the hearts of all impressed with undissembled piety, with benevolence and zeal for the public good.
And it is also recommended, that recreations unsuitable to the purpose of such a solemnity may be omitted on that day.
Done in Congress, this 17th day of November, 1778, and in the third year of the independence of the United States of America.
Did you see that? Recreations unsuitable to the purpose of such a solemnity may be omitted on that day. Seems to me that board games, touch football, sports on the television, and early holiday shopping would all need to be removed from our family celebrations.
I’m not actually suggesting we revamp our November holiday to look more like what it did in the late 1700s. I enjoy the fun and games with my family, the laughter and giggles we share with a funny movie, and the quiet moments I lose in a good book.
Instead, I’m advocating a deeper purpose. I submit we should do more than simply make a list of what we’re glad we own or are able to do. I propose we turn our thankfulness into prayer.
1. Let us not merely be thankful. Let us be thankful to God.
Counting our blessings is good. Remembering the One who allowed the blessings is better.
2. Let us not forget our sinfulness.
Many of the early proclamations by Congress and Presidents went a step further than asking people to acknowledge God’s unmerited favor upon them. As written in the Proclamation above, they wanted people to make a penitent confession of our sins, and humble supplication for pardon, through the merits of our Savior.
3. Thanksgiving combined with confession served a purpose.
The Continental Congress expressed it well:
So that, under the smiles of Heaven, our public councils may be directed, our arms by land and sea prospered, our liberty and independence secured, our schools and seminaries of learning flourish, our trade be revived, our husbandry and manufactures encreased, and the hearts of all impressed with undissembled piety, with benevolence and zeal for the public good.
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 . . . ~President George Washington, October 1789
So, Thanksgiving is in two days. What will the celebration look like at your house?
Do you need help keeping track of your prayers? Although I dislike journaling, I find writing down my prayer requests — and the answers I receive — is very encouraging to my faith and my prayer life.
2018 Prayer Journal
Paperback, releasing November 2017. Have you ever wanted to keep track of your prayer requests AND the answers God provided in an easy to read format? Me too! But I’ve never found one I liked. In my new prayer journal, you’ll find short monthly devotions, inspiring quotes, and space to keep track of the answers with the prayers, side-by-side, so you can easily look back to see what God said and when He showed up! Also includes verses on prayer and sample prayers straight from Scripture to help you pray God’s Word in your everyday life. Formatted in non-specific monthly segments so you can start anytime during the year!