Thanksgiving is a tradition that most people observe here in the United States. It is followed by both Christians and non-Christians. However, how a Christian celebrates compared to a non-Christian is that when they celebrate Thanksgiving, they give thanks to God. If you go back to the history of Thanksgiving, it has its Christian origins. In October 1621, Pilgrims migrated to North America from England. These Pilgrims, also knowns as the Puritans, were being persecuted by their church. These Puritans sought to reform their church, which was the Church of England. The Church of England was almost no different from the Roman Catholic church. A lot of their theology was unbiblical. Some Puritans sought to reform the church, while some believed that given the depravity of the church, it was pointless to reform it anymore.
Nonetheless, they were persecuted. That is why some Puritans were separatists—they separated from the corrupt Church of England and migrated to Holland and then to a colony in Plymouth, where they sought to practice their religion freely without persecution from the church. As the Pilgrims migrated, they went through several hardships. They went through a harsh winter that killed many of them. They also experience a scarcity of supplies. When the first Thanksgiving occurred in America, a group of Pilgrims that went through terrible hardships thanked God that they were still alive. Settling in another place is not an easy thing to do, and it was hard for the Pilgrims, who, fortunately, met some Native Americans who taught them agriculture and other things they needed to know to survive. Because of that, the colonists gave thanks to God for helping them settle, sustaining them, and providing for them throughout. Thanksgiving continues when people celebrate to thank God for His grace, sustenance, and provision. Later on, during President Abraham Lincoln’s time, Thanksgiving was reserved for every fourth Thursday of November.
If you compare Thanksgiving before to Thanksgiving today, you will see that Thanksgiving has become just a tradition alone and has lost its essence, which is to thank God. That is what differentiates Christians when they celebrate Thanksgiving. They celebrate it out of gratitude for God’s grace and mercy toward them. Non-Christians, on the other hand, see Thanksgiving as a tradition where they can be thankful for the things they are grateful for without God in the picture.
Father in heaven, remind me that Thanksgiving is never about celebrating a tradition going on for years but about giving thanks for Your providence, grace, and mercy toward us. May we always abound in Thanksgiving toward You every fourth Thursday of November. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
How do you pray for Thanksgiving?
If you were celebrating Thanksgiving and were asked the question, “What are you the most thankful for?” you might answer that you are thankful for a job promotion, an answered prayer, an increase in salary, growth in business, etc. Indeed, we should be grateful to God for those things, as those things came from God and you should thank Him. However, what if any of those things didn’t happen? What if your business went bad, there was no promotion or salary increase in your job, or things were not going well in general? Of course, we are not praying for those things to happen, but the Bible clearly states that we will encounter suffering and hardships in this life. Are there still things you can thank God for even in the season of suffering or hardship? The answer to that is there are many things you can thank God for. These are things we tend to mostly overlook, not knowing that we wouldn’t be here if not for these things.
1 Peter 5:10
But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.
3 And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;
4 And patience, experience; and experience, hope:
5 And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.
For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
2 My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3 Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4 But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.
The fact that you were still able to eat even if it was not a meal from a high-class restaurant is something you should thank God for. Some people can’t even find anything to eat. When you came home from work, you didn’t get into an accident that could have taken your life. You still have a job – even if it is something you don’t like, and the wages are low – while some are still looking for any job they can get. Also, you should be thankful that you were still able to wake up and live for another day. Regardless of your circumstances, there is always something that you can thank God for. That is why the Bible tells us to give thanks regardless of our circumstances.
O give thanks unto the Lord; call upon his name: make known his deeds among the people
O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
16 Rejoice evermore.
17 Pray without ceasing.
18 In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks.
Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ;
As a Christian, the fact that you didn’t fall away from the faith and are still praising and worshipping God despite the suffering you are going through is something to be thankful to God for. Without those things that God has been sustaining and providing, we wouldn’t live. Yet we always tend to overlook them.
6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:
7 Rooted and built up in him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.
Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving;
22 It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not.
23 They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.
But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, long suffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth.
Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.
That is also what differentiates Christians from non-Christians whenever we celebrate Thanksgiving. Even if things are not going well for Christians, they can still thank God for all the things that God has been gracious and merciful to allow them. Even in a season of hardship, they still have grateful hearts to God. Christians have joy and can still thank God, all because they have Christ in their life. Non-Christians, on the other hand, tend to be materialistic when it comes to giving thanks. If things don’t go well in their lives, they think there is nothing to be grateful for anymore. The Pilgrims went through several hardships, and they could have grumbled to God about why things were not better than what they could have been. Yet instead, they celebrated and thanked God for sustaining them.
As you have your Thanksgiving, you can pray this prayer together with your family or friends:
Father in heaven, thank You because in Christ we have joy that overflows in us. Because we have Christ, we are content in Him whether in abundance or lack and in good times or bad. In Christ, we have these unsearchable riches; He is our greatest treasure. I thank You, Father, for all the things you have been doing for us. Thank You for always keeping us safe from accidents whenever we go outside. Thank You for sustaining us when we sleep so that we could still wake up. Thank You for providing us with food to eat. All of this is because of your providence, grace, and mercy toward us. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
As mentioned before, there is nothing wrong with job promotions, growth in business, and other answered prayer. We should believe in God for those things. If you have any answered prayer or any good thing that has happened throughout the year, you can include all of this in your prayer as you thank God.
If you are a working professional who got promoted and also got a salary increase, here is how you can thank God:
Heavenly Father, I thank You for granting me the promotion as well as the salary increase. Everything comes from You, Father, even my job promotion. With that, I give you all the glory and praise. Thank You for giving me the grace I need to be excellent in my work, which enabled me to be promoted. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
You can modify the prayer to whatever you are thanking God for. When thanking God for answered prayer, the key thing to remember is acknowledging that everything comes from God because He is gracious and merciful. Because of that, you are thanking Him.
How do you thank Jesus?
You can and should thank Jesus during Thanksgiving. Why? It’s because everything you have is all because of Christ. Indeed, there is a common grace that God gives even to non-Christians. That is why non-Christians get to live and have good things in life. But if you take away those things, that is when you can see the difference between those in Christ and those who aren’t. Apart from Christ, you will never be able to pray to God as Your Father and have access to His throne of grace where you can receive grace and mercy. If not for Christ, you will also not have the grace as a Christian to persevere during the tough times when you might have fallen away in faith otherwise. Also, if not for Christ, you will not have this joy that enables you to still have a grateful heart toward God even in tough times and be content in Christ.
Lord Jesus, thank You for dying on the cross to pay for the penalty of my sins. Because of Your work, I am now forgiven and adopted as God’s child. You became the mediator between God and me and have given me access to the throne of grace. You also give me joy, which enables me to be joyful whatever my circumstances are. I am content and satisfied with You. That is why I am grateful whether I have the good things in life or not. In Your name, I pray. Amen.
Being in Christ affects the way you celebrate Thanksgiving and your perspective on life. In Christ, we know that life is not about things here on earth and that our life here is just temporary. We have eternal life in Christ, which transcends our life here on earth up to eternity with God. In Christ, we can experience the fullness of life regardless of our wealth, health, social status, fame, etc. If you are not a Christian and you want to experience eternal life in Christ, you have to understand the Gospel, repent, and believe in the person and work of Christ.