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“A Day of Public Thanksgiving and Prayer”

November 24, 2009
Many of you may have grown up, as I did, assuming that Thanksgiving materialized onto our national calendars much like the 7th inning stretch appeared at baseball games – a few pilgrims and indians did it once (celebrating the harvest of 1621), and we’ve done it ever since! Like me, then, you may be encouraged to read how the holiday of Thanksgiving was codified for us as a young nation, and more importantly, the reasoning given behind it – having much less to do with food on the table and much more to do with how great our God is! I have listed the text of George Washington’s 1789 Thanksgiving Proclamation below. Notice the flow of thought through the three paragraphs (1) giving thanks to God is right because of Who He is (2) and so we build a time of thanksgiving to God into the national consciousness of our nation (3) having thanked Him for His grace toward us, we continue to look for that grace by interceding for the continuation of His blessing and protection. Not a bad outline to follow around the table with the family on Thursday!
Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to “recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:”
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.
Amen! May we take this week and fight through the traveling, eating, football watching (etc) to set aside some quality time to reflect on who our God is and all that He has done. Happy Thanksgiving!

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  1. ashleyrobi permalink

    So good!! Thank you for bringing a little history of this holiday to us in order that we might do more than celebrate good food, but rather celebrate our unfathomably great God!

  2. Asha permalink

    I love the way this letter models the response of gratitude for grace: partnership in the things on God’s heart. I just listened to John Piper’s thanksgiving sermon and was reminded that we (citizens of the Kingdom), among all people, have the most to celebrate today, because as Piper says, we’ve been shown how bad our natural state is and how much we have been given in Jesus. Looking at where our nation’s attention is today in comparison to its founding spurs me to search my own heart again and ask the Father to teach me to come to Jesus as my Satisfying Treasure, to see and savor Him, to see living as Christ and dying as gain. What a thanksgiving lifestyle Paul lived!

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