This week, Americans from coast to coast will cease their workday activities and gather with friends and loved ones for Thanksgiving. It is a time-honored ritual, observed by the overwhelming majority of the American population.
Thanksgiving is a combination of two longstanding traditions in Anglo-American civilization—the joyous harvest festival and the more somber declaration of a day of prayer or thanksgiving in the midst of some national crisis.
This holiday season, Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES, ses.edu) is offering several ideas for "dinner table discussions" that will help guide families' conversations. Namely, says SES President Dr. Richard Land, "thanksgiving" should return to its original part of speech—a verb.
"As we look around us, most Americans, at least those who are religious, understand that God has blessed our nation in incomparable ways," Land said. "And blessings, it must be remembered, are blessings because they are undeserved and unearned. When one looks at American history, one cannot help but come to the conclusion that more than fortuitous circumstances have been at work. No one could be that lucky. God has blessed us and protected us in unique ways. And Americans of religious faith should take the occasion to give thanks to God for His blessings and His bounty."
Land says that, as a Christian, he encourages all fellow believers to undertake a spiritual exercise this Thanksgiving. The apostle Paul commanded us as Christians "in everything gives thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thess. 5:18).
"Obeying this commandment allows the Holy Spirit to create in you heart-felt gratitude for God's manifold blessings in your life," Land said. "And the grateful heart is the contented and the peaceful heart. I hope that we will all stop to remember the origins of Thanksgiving as we gather around family and friends this year. We have so much for which to be grateful in this land that God has blessed so richly. I promise you that when you start giving thanks to God for the blessings in your life, God will keep calling new blessings to mind, and you will find that there are so many more things for which to be thankful than you had thought or imagined, and every day will become its own Thanksgiving."
Land also offered his own Thanksgiving prayer he will utter this year surrounded by family:
Heavenly Father, thank You for loving me enough to send Jesus, Your only begotten Son, to die on the cross for my sins. Thank You, Jesus, for loving all of us enough to be willing to die on the cross for each one of us. Thank You for my Christian parents; thank You for my Christian wife; thank You that my children love You; thank You for calling me into the gospel ministry. Thank You for allowing me to be born in the United States. Thank You for my health. Thank You for Your mercy and forgiveness and Your forbearance with all of my many failures and imperfections. Thank You for my Christian friends. I pray these things in the name of Jesus, your Son, our Savior, the coming King. Amen.
"Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday," Land concluded. "To me it is the most American of holidays. Let this Thanksgiving week be the beginning of a completely new chapter in your walk with the Lord Jesus. Let this Thanksgiving week be not merely a celebration of what has been, but the commencement of an ever-more joyous future. This Thanksgiving, I pray that His peace will be an ever-more present reality for all followers of Jesus."
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