putting my foot into the thanksgiving prayer
by J.C Phillips
The last thing I am concerned about is the meal. I can roast a turkey in my sleep. My stuffing is sublime. I will put my mac and cheese up against any in the world and my cranberry relish has received standing ovations! I am not worried about the meal. I am, however, having anxiety over the blessing.
The dinner blessing is the transformative element of the occasion. Through prayer, we transcend the narrow confines of ego and give the credit for our bounty where it is properly due. However, the Thanksgiving prayer is not solely an acknowledgment that the good things in life are gifts given through God’s grace. We are also beseeching God to give us more than we have. We offer the benediction in order to open our homes, and our hearts to the continued presence of the divine. It is the conduit through which the occasion moves from the purely sensual to the sacred. It puts the Holy in the Holi-day.
However, not everyone can prepare world-class mac and cheese and not everyone is skilled at delivering a good thanksgiving prayer.
There are those folks who power pray. Once these folks get going, there is no stopping them. They begin praying on Thursday and end sometime Friday afternoon. You may have a “Power Pray-er” in your family. Long after the peas have begun to shrivel and past the point that God is listening, Uncle Bubba is still offering praise.
There are those who offer comic prayers. A bit of humor is always nice, but too much levity robs the moment of the weight it should have and the prayer becomes insincere. Full bellies and a bounty of life and laughter to share with one’s neighbors is no trifle.
Then there are those who simply pray too briefly. If you clear your throat you are likely to have missed it. Like prayers that reach for humor, a prayer that is too brief seems a bit flippant for my tastes. Almost as though the moment is not worthy of much effort or attention.
My prayer to be “just right” must fall somewhere between long enough to give glory to the maker, but be short enough so the food is still hot when I finish. It must be light enough to maintain the festive mood, but also substantive enough to convey the true heartfelt thanks I will be offering for God’s divine intercession in my life and the lives of my family and friends.
If you are like me, on this day you are better able to express yourself through the mountains of food you prepare for your family and guests than you are through the words offered before the meal. However, it is worth remembering the secret ingredient that transforms an ordinary meal into something special is love. The greatest compliment a cook can receive is to be told: “You put your foot into it.” It acknowledges that the chef put everything he/she had into the dish. On Thanksgiving, it is equally important that we put our all into the prayer we offer, and like in every dish we prepare, love will be the secret ingredient.
Thursday afternoon, I will resist the urge to rely on a stand-by prayer that has grown stale over the years. I will keep it simple. My family and friends will gather round the feast. I will close my eyes, take a deep breath, unlock my heart, open my mouth and see what comes out. If I put my foot into it, the words will be beautiful and full. And like the rest of the meal, they will be perfect.