Do You Pray Out Loud To Voice Your Thanks?
by dawn harris
Special to The Pilot
November is, without question, one of my favorite months of the year. The reasons are many but begin, literally, with my birthday on the first and come to a close with the celebration of Thanksgiving.
As a card-carrying "outdoor girl," I find it very fitting that the holiday in which we profess thanks for all the goodness in life comes at harvest time, when Mother Earth gives generously of her bounty before covering up with a blanket of fallen leaves for a well-deserved rest.
It is also a holiday which has, at least for now, escaped much of the commercialism that plagues most other seasonal celebrations. No gifts required, no obligatory songs overplayed on the radio, and no specific dress code - all have helped to keep this day of thanks fairly pure to its origins.
I love Thanksgiving because I have a particular fondness for the concept of gratitude. It is no accident my home is named Grateful Farm, for I truly count among my greatest blessings every blade of grass and speck of dirt that I can call my own.
I doubt anyone dislikes Thanksgiving. The abundant food alone is reason to be thankful - to the cook responsible for preparation, the farmer credited with its raising, and the blessing of taste buds to appreciate it all.
The Thanksgiving meal is so beloved that people are even willing to spend time with disagreeable relatives just to get another slice of Grandma's pie or other favorite treat. But I am intrigued by what happens first, before the first bite is taken. That is, of course, the saying of grace or the blessing.
It is probably safe to say that most people of faith offer thanks to God for the food they consume, at least at some point in their lives. If you are like me, this is a tradition learned as a child in which you learned to recite a particular blessing before each meal.
My parents were adamant that our prayers not be a mindless regurgitation of words with no thought behind them, so we were responsible for creating anew our message of thanks each day. It always started the same way: "Lord, thank you for this day. Thank you for this food." From here on, we were on our own.
I remember prayers that thanked God for a good grade on a test, a resolved dispute with a friend, beautiful weather, a successful horseback riding lesson or show, the completion of a challenging task and other topics.
The point was well-taken. Be thankful for the things you receive, the things you give, the things you accomplish, the interactions with loved ones, the world around you.
My husband's family recites the Moravian blessing practiced by his mother's family for generations. It begins:
"Come, Lord Jesus
Our guest to be
And bless these gifts
Bestowed by thee."
The sound of their voices offering this prayer in unison (and there is a lot more to it than the lines above) is such a comfort to me. There is just something special about being carried along in the familiarity of the words.
So, in the spirit of the season and this meditation, I offer the following thoughts:
Do you pray before meals? All meals, or just supper? Just special occasions?
Do you offer thanks when you eat alone, or only with others?
Do you pray over meals taken in public, at home, in the homes of others?
Do you say the same prayer each time or rotate memorized blessings?
Do you have a special prayer reserved for the Thanksgiving meal? Other holidays?
Do you create original blessings for meals?
November's issue of Our State magazine has an article titled "Saying Grace," which I happened upon while thinking of this topic. The author's final comments rang true with me and might also spur some interesting conversation among all of you:
"That's probably the most important answer I learned in my examination of saying grace. No matter the object of our gratitude, no matter the faith, no matter if it's fried chicken or Grandma, no matter the time or place and nature of the saying, no matter how often we say it, the key to being thankful is that we truly mean it.
"That makes saying grace worthwhile, and shouldn't that be the case, no matter what it is we are about to receive?"
Dawn Harris lives with her husband and sons on a farm in Southern Pines. She wrote this meditation as a Vestry member at Emmanuel Episcopal Church.
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