Prayer is always a tricky thing, and it becomes that much trickier when you have to do it in front of a roomful of people, especially when that roomful happens to be a collection of your nearest and dearest. Thanksgiving Dinner can be a veritable minefield of tension and anxiety. Unmet expectations, differing political views, ancient feuds, and first-time appearances are just some of the variables that can make for a fraught-filled holiday. Throw religion into the mix and you have all the ingredients for holiday drama of Kardashian-like proportions.
If you happen to be the designated “prayer” before the meal this Thanksgiving, here are a couple of options that won’t fuel the flames. In other words, here are some prayers that even your atheist uncle and teenage niece who worships the corn goddess can live with.
Meat and Potatoes Prayer
(Covers all the bases but doesn’t get too religious. At the same time, it won’t put off your great-aunt who’s holding her rosary at the other end of the table.)
Good and Gracious God,
We thank you for gathering us here today
and for all the gifts that you’ve given us in the year that’s past.
We welcome the new addition(s) to our table, grateful for their presence,
and bless all those responsible for the food we are about to eat, both near and far.
And we remember those who go without: without homes, without food, without peace.
We ask you to bless them and to soften our hearts.
(Short enough so that those who have issues with religion won’t even know you said it until after it’s done.)
Thank you for all that you’ve given us.
Bless the cook and bless all those who go without.
The Universal Prayer
(Doesn’t explicitly name a higher power and especially useful when there are both non-believers and people of differing faith traditions gathered.)
Thank you for the food.
Thank you for all that we have.
Bless the hungry and the homeless.
Look after those in hospitals, jails, and institutions.
Comfort the refugee and the orphan,
And grant us peace.
Originally published November 2015.