This Thanksgiving, when you bow your head to pray, where do you direct your prayers?
Do you says thanks to God in heaven far away for orchestrating events so that, by global standards, you won the lottery of lives? Is prayer a form of deference directed to a Far Away Deity for the good gifts of family and food?
The Bible portrays a God in the highest heavens. But the Bible also speaks of The Holy One who is present among us, within us, and in every dimension of creation.
With this in mind let me suggest a new “direction” for our prayers.
What if Thanksgiving prayers were offered with open eyes? As we gaze upon the meal laid before us we invite ourselves to see a dimension of God present in the turkey, the cranberry sauce, the vegetables, the pumpkin pie. We look more deeply at the various dishes of food on the table and give thanks to the Life which makes each of these foods unique and capable of conveying the very elements of life within them to us.
Eating, then, becomes a kind of sacrament; with each bite we receive the gift of Life—God— by way of these familiar Thanksgiving foods.
My dad’s prayer at Thanksgiving, and every day, was, “We thank Thee for this food, and ask Thou to bless it to the nourishment of our bodies, and us to Thy service.” As a kid I entertained myself by silently reciting his nightly prayer along with him, oblivious to the profundity of the wisdom I imitated. My dad, a simple but wise man, connected the God above and beyond us with the food before us, as well as with the food mysterious ability to energize and animate our work.
Perhaps at this point in prayer we close our eyes, as is our custom, in order to go deep within our own lives to that True Self place where God is present, waiting as if backstage to come out and make all of life sacred and beautiful.
Just because Thanksgiving is a season of traditions doesn’t mean we have it down pat. Thanksgiving is a journey into life’s most sacred truths. The traditional prayer is a way to name The Sacred Presence and to give thanks.