Prayers for Thanksgiving Day and My Birthday
Almighty and gracious Father, we give thee thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season and for the labors of those who harvest them. Make us, we beseech thee, faithful stewards of thy great bounty, for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need, to the glory of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
—Prayer for Thanksgiving Day,
Episcopal Book of Common Prayer, 1979 Version, p. 194
“O God, our times are in your hand: Look with favor, we pray, on your servant [Jimmy], as he begins another year. Grant that [we all] may grow in wisdom and grace, and strengthen [our] trust in your goodness all the days of [our] life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”
—Prayer for a Birthday, Episcopal Book of Common Prayer,
1979 version, p. 830
As indicated by the title of this post and the opening prayers above, this blog entry is in recognition of two annual events that usually occur either on or near the same day of the year: Thanksgiving Day and my birthday.
This year Thanksgiving falls on November 22 and my seventy-fourth birthday falls the next day on November 23. (See my earlier posts on the seventy-fourth birthday of my cousin Donald Peacock on October 12 and the post on the birthdays of my late brothers Adrian and Joe on October 20.)
When I was born on November 23 in 1938, my birth occurred on Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving Day on Thursday. I often quip that “I was born on the night before Thanksgiving, so that year Thanksgiving was canceled!” That, of course, is not true, only a bit of humorous “poetic nonsense.”
In the same vein, I also say of my devoutly religious mother, the daughter of a country Southern Baptist preacher, “I was born on Wednesday night, and I’m sure Mama took me to church the next Sunday morning!” That is probably not an exaggeration.
Finally, I also say that since we Baptists in rural Selma, Arkansas, did not have a church building of our own at the time, we alternated Sunday services with the Methodists in their building which was located right across the “branch” from my farmhouse birthplace. So I also say that although I was taken to church on the first Sunday morning after my Wednesday night birth, I don’t know who was in charge of that service—the Baptists or the Methodists. (I also say that I am sure that, as far as God is concerned, it really doesn’t matter.)
I have featured all those quotes and several photos of the historic Selma Methodist Church and my birthplace several times in earlier posts on this blog. I have also featured several photos of the Selma Baptist Church, which was constructed later when I was about nine years old and among whose founders were my mother and her father, Rev. Willis Barrett, pastor of that church.
Thus, as I have explained in several earlier posts about my spiritual background, although my Peacock ancestors were Middle Georgia Methodist minister-planters who immigrated to Southeast Arkansas just before the Civil War looking for new fields to sow (in cotton) and reap (in souls), my immediate Selma family were Southern “Baptists of the Baptists.”
As such, I not only attended Baptist churches, graduated from Ouachita Baptist College, and taught in Baptist junior colleges, in 1986 Mari (who was also a staunch Southern Baptist) and I were led to join the Episcopal Church; specifically, Trinity Episcopal Church in Tulsa. (The reasons for this change of denomination and church affiliation were explained in an earlier post titled “A Summary of My Personal Spirituality and Pilgrimage,” which also explained the reasons for our eventual return to the Methodist Church of my ancestors.)
During the almost twenty years that Mari and I were active members of the Episcopal Church we were drawn to and impressed by the beauty, formality, dignity, and solemnity of the Episcopal liturgy and prayers.
As examples, besides the opening prayers above, in this Thanksgiving post I would like to share two daily prayers that appear in the opening and closing pages of each issue of Forward Day by Day, the Episcopal daily devotional booklet. These prayers are quoted here by permission of the publisher in hopes that they may speak to and be of service to other Christians (like us “Baptiscopalian Methodists”) who may find them as beautiful, moving, and meaningful as we do, especially on this day of national thanksgiving.
A Morning Resolve
I will try this day to live a simple, sincere, and serene life, repelling promptly every thought of discontent, anxiety, discouragement, impurity, and self-seeking; cultivating cheerfulness, magnanimity, charity, and the habit of holy silence, exercising economy in expenditure, generosity in giving, carefulness in conversation, diligence in appointed service, fidelity to every trust, and a childlike faith in God.
In particular I will try to be faithful in those habits of prayer, work, study, physical exercise, eating, and sleep which I believe the Holy Spirit has shown me to be right.
And as I cannot in my own strength do this, nor even with a hope of success attempt it, I look to thee, O Lord God my Father, in Jesus my Savior, and ask for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
Give me strength to live another day;
Let me not turn coward before its difficulties
or prove recreant to its duties;
Let me not lose faith in other people;
Keep me sweet and sound of heart, in spite of
ingratitude, treachery, or meanness;
Preserve me from minding little stings or giving them;
Help me to keep my heart clean, and to live so
honestly and fearlessly that no outward
failure can dishearten me or take away the
joy of conscious integrity;
Open wide the eyes of my soul that I may see
good in all things;
Grant me this day some new vision of thy truth;
Inspire me with the spirit of joy and gladness;
and make me the cup of strength to suffering
souls; in the name of the strong Deliverer, our
only Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Copyright Forward Movement. All rights reserved.
Southern Gospel Addendum
“Consider the lilies of the field . . . .”
—Matthew 6:28 KJV
As noted in a previous post, some of the quotations and other copy in my blog were part of a Sunday school class I once taught at Trinity Episcopal Church titled “The Spirituality of Home.” Each of the Sunday school sessions was opened with a piece of music that related to the theme of that day’s class discussion. One of those musical introductions was Willie Nelson’s version of the classic Gospel song “An Uncloudy Day.”
Coincidentally, in the September 30 post of his blog “Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind,” my Ouachita Baptist College classmate and longtime friend, and the designer of this blog, Joe Dempsey, featured some close-up photos of lovely “lilies of the field” growing in his neighborhood.
As part of that post he also featured two musical pieces: folksinger Burl Ives singing “Brighten the Corner Where You Are” and country singer Willie Nelson singing “An Uncloudy Day.” To visit this site and to listen to these classic Gospel songs that were so much a part of our Southern evangelical upbringing, click here and then click on the video link illustrated with church buildings. I hope these words, images, and songs will “strum some chords (and heartstrings)” of your own spiritual heritage.
For an interesting contrast between white and black Gospel versions of “An Uncloudy Day,” click here to hear that same song by The Staple Singers, which was recorded in 1956, the year I graduated from high school and entered Ouachita.