This post was first published for Thanksgiving 2013, the year I began blogging. I did not know many of you as friends then, so I’m posting this again for our season of gratitude in 2018, keeping in mind those victims of California wildfires and senseless shootings. May we find a tangible way to help them and others in need.
A holiday celebrated primarily in the United States and Canada, Thanksgiving invites us to pause and give thanks as we pray, that mysterious communication between one’s heart and the mind of God. Writer C. S. Lewis declares his attitude before prayer: “The prayer preceding all prayers is “May it be the real I who speaks.”
British author W. H. Auden expresses the mystery of prayer in a haiku: “He has never seen God, / but once or twice, he believes / he has heard Him,” quoted in The New Yorker, November 14, 2011. And the British author John Baillie implores of God as he prays:
Let me use disappointment as material for patience.
Let me use success as material for thankfulness.
Let me use trouble as material for perseverance.
Let me use danger as material for courage.
Let me use reproach as material for long-suffering.
Let me use praise as material for humility.
Let me use pleasures as material for temperance.
Let me use pain as material for endurance.
Children in our church’s 2-year-old class learn that prayer is talking to God, and then they do just that when they clasp their fat, little fingers as they sing “God is great, and God is good” before snack time:
“Keeping company with God” is the title of Part One of Philip Yancey’s book with the arresting title Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? He discusses also the language of prayer and the dilemmas of prayer including what one should pray for, the enigma of unanswered prayer, and “un-prayed answers.” (220) Ah, the mystery of talking to God.
Lately I decided to cheer myself up by reviewing the bounty of God’s blessings. When the machinery of life goes awry–the doctor has a dire report, the car breaks down, a friend misunderstands–how can it be that I overlook divine intervention? My memory for blessing is so limited, and so I record evidences of God’s faithfulness:
Over the years, in fact since 1984, I have accumulated prayer cards, some printed with typewriter ribbon and later ones two-sided and computer generated. Most of what is on the card are names of family and friends who need help, but sometimes there is a condition humanly unsolvable that I pray God will remedy. The cards are speckled with dates recording what I regard as answers to prayer.
How soon we forget. How necessary to remember!
Denise Levertov, from Sands of the Well, expresses with clarity the “quiet mystery” of communication between God and [wo]man in two stanzas of “Primary Wonder” (vimeo):
Days pass when I forget the mystery.
Problems insoluble and problems offering
their own ignored solutions
jostle for my attention, they crowd its antechamber along with a host of diversions, my courtiers, wearing
their colored clothes; cap and bells.
once more the quiet mystery is present to me, the throng’s clamor recedes; the mystery that there is anything, anything at all, let alone cosmos, joy, memory, everything, rather than void: and that, O Lord, Creator, Hallowed One, you still,
hour by hour sustain it.
How do you practice gratitude?
During this Thanksgiving season do you have a story, long treasured in the family or a newly minted one to share? We’re ready to listen!