Giving Thanks: An Everyday Tradition
When Americans think about Thanksgiving, we tend to reflect on pilgrims sharing a meal with Native Americans near Plymouth Rock. But expressing thankfulness pre-dates what we call, “The First Thanksgiving.” It’s deeply rooted in the Christian faith and has played a central role in the lives of believers throughout history. Prayers of thanksgiving serve as an expression of gratitude to God for His blessings and grace—something we can do every day.
Jesus gives us examples of thanksgiving prayers, most notably during the Last Supper. In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus gives thanks before breaking bread and sharing the cup with His disciples, establishing the Holy Eucharist. This event laid the foundation for the practice of taking Holy Communion, an expression of thanksgiving for the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
The early Christian Church continued to emphasize the importance of gratitude and thanksgiving. The Apostle Paul, in his letters to the early church, frequently encouraged believers to offer prayers of thanksgiving. In his letter to the Colossians, he writes, "And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Colossians 3:17, ESV).
The Psalms also played a significant role in shaping the Christian tradition of thanksgiving. Many of these poetic and musical prayers express gratitude and praise to God. Psalm 100, for example, begins with the words, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing."
Thanksgiving is deeply ingrained in the church calendar. One of the most significant Christian holidays is Thanksgiving Day. It is a time for families and communities to come together in a spirit of gratitude, giving thanks for the blessings received and acknowledging the providence of God.
Giving thanks is an integral part of a worship service too. The Eucharistic prayer, recited during the Communion service, is a poignant moment of thanksgiving. As believers we offer our gratitude for the body and blood of Christ, symbolized in the bread and wine, as we remember His sacrifice on the cross for the forgiveness of sins.
Beyond Sunday morning, we should cultivate an attitude of gratitude in our daily lives. The Bible teaches that we should give thanks in all circumstances, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for them (1 Thessalonians 5:18). This means that gratitude should be an integral part of every Christian's personal prayer life.
Thanksgiving prayers have a rich history and significant role in the Christian faith, dating back to the life and teachings of Jesus and continuing through the early Church to the present day. They are a profound expression of gratitude to God for His blessings, grace, and ultimate sacrifice of Christ on the cross. For the Christian, Thanksgiving is more than a Thursday in November, it’s an attitude to embrace and a prayer to offer every day.
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