“For whom and for what are we thankful?” The question rang through the worship space like a rung bell. I was not the officiant in this liturgy and therefore had the luxury of sinking into this question in prayer.
The invitation for thanksgivings had been intentionally placed before the petitions. For those who are familiar with the Prayers of the People in our Book of Common Prayer, this order reversed what we are used to in our prayers.
I liked the shift.
As I stood in silence in common prayer and began to reflect on those things I was thankful for, I realized that it felt very right that we were called to give thanks first. It felt right because, even in times of suffering, there is always something for which to be thankful. In that moment of prayer of thanksgiving, I remembered those who sacrificed for me, those who prayed for me, and those who supported me even when I was in too much pain to see them. I also realized that we do not have any real sense of the ways that others seek to help us or others. So much of what is done to help others goes unseen. This is because the compassion and love behind the giving are not seeking recognition or praise; they are simply seeking to heal, to calm, and to make some part of a wrong a little more right.
Thanksgiving Day is a time for us to gather with those we cherish, love, and enjoy and to give thanks. For some, it may have deep historical and ritualistic meaning; for others, it may simply be a day to share a meal and fellowship, and for others, it is a wonderful break from work. Whatever it is for you, I hope that giving thanks is at the heart of your day.
In that moment of worship that day, I realized giving thanks before we make our petitions is a powerful action that helps us create the space within to hold the petitions requiring our compassion, healing, and consolation. We are stronger by knowing for whom and for what we ought to give thanks. We are stronger in acknowledging and giving thanks because, in that act, we make ourselves ready to hold the good work that God has called us into. When we have the strength and capacity to be open to the good work God calls us to, we also have the ability to bring all of our petitions to God in prayer. Our prayers of thanksgiving equip us to be the servants of Christ that we are meant to be.
Wherever and however you are observing Thanksgiving Day, I invite you to take a moment, either alone or in the company of friends and family, to give thanks for all that has brought you to this day. None of us have arrived at this Thanksgiving unscathed, and all of us have someone and something to thank for the journey. Give thanks for those who have been a blessing along the way.