Prayers of thanks

Come tomorrow, most of us will sit down with family and friends to share a meal. Many of us will take a moment to say grace. We will remember all the things we are thankful for and tell our children about that time in 1621 when the Pilgrims decided to mark the year’s good harvest with a feast.

Some of us may be caught off-guard with a request to say a prayer — at the Thanksgiving table with future in-laws, for example. If you think you might be in that category this year, it’s best to prepare in advance. Better yet, consider asking other people for Thanksgiving prayer ideas. Here are some examples to get you started.

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Amy Balmer, her husband John and sons Christian, 10, and Jackson, 7, don’t get to eat every meal together, but when they do, one of them usually takes a turn to say a prayer.

Here’s what Balmer might say when it’s her turn: “Father, every good and perfect gift comes from you, and I thank you for the life you’ve given me and how you’ve provided for my family in way of finances, relationships, freedom and healing. There’s no one like you, and I thank you for your grace and your mercy.”

Balmer, 40, of Everett, moved to Snohomish County from Yakima four years ago to help her pastor start the Everett Vineyard Church. On Thanksgiving, she usually makes a pot of greens, a traditional African-American dish her father used to make.

“They are not quite as good as my dad’s, but every year they get a little bit better,” she said. “It makes me feel like home.”

If you have no one to share Thanksgiving dinner, you are welcome at the Balmer home. Because her own family is scattered around the country, Thanksgiving always makes her grateful for those who are with her.

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Shirel Smith, 49, and Mark Rainey, 55, of Monroe, plan to say Hamotzi, a Jewish prayer traditionally said before each meal. The prayer translates as: “Blessed be the Lord, our God, who brings forth bread from the ground.”

Another Jewish prayer that would be fitting is Shecheheyanu, which is said on festivals and other joyous occasions, Smith said. The prayer means: “Blessed be the Lord, our God, who gives us life, sustains us and brings us together.”

The couple are planning a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at their home. Smith hopes to invite a neighbor who recently lost his Thanksgiving companion, his mother.

Smith and Rainey live “off the grid,” making their own electricity and growing much of their own food. They keep goats, chickens and a turkey. And no, it won’t become Thanksgiving dinner this year.

Smith has had Thanksgivings when she butchered her own turkey. She always thanks the bird for its life and God for giving her the chance to raise it.“That’s just something I do because I’m really grateful for the opportunity to grow my own food,” she said.

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If you visit Carol Robinson’s Clearview home on Thanksgiving, you will find the family reading poems.

On big family holidays, Robinson gets out her poetry books so everyone can pick something to read. She recommends “It’s Thanksgiving!” by Jack Prelutsky.

Some poems are funny, some are serious. Robinson’s father always read “A prayer of Thanksgiving” by Robert Louis Stevenson. He father died years ago, but Robinson’s husband carries on the tradition.

“It’s a father thing,” she said.

The poem begins: “Lord, behold our family here assembled. We thank Thee for this place in which we dwell; for the love that unites us; for the peace accorded us this day …”

Robinson’s daughter Katherine, a freshman at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, is home for Thanksgiving break. Her younger daughter, Charlotte, is a sophomore at Glacier Peak High School.

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Ron Berry, 39, of Lynnwood, makes sure his grace prayer mentions those who don’t get to share the meal.

His prayer goes like this: “Father, bless this food, bless the hands that have prepared it, the people who will eat it and those who can’t partake in it. Bless us and protect us.”

Berry was once homeless. He now helps run several free community meal programs at several Snohomish County churches. He is the single dad of 9-month-old Zoey.

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In Sandi Lindbeck’s family, people gathered at the Thanksgiving table say a traditional Norwegian table prayer. The English translation is something like: “In Jesus’ name we sit at the table to eat and drink according to thy word. To your glory, Lord, for gifts given, we receive food in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

Lindbeck learned the prayer from her aunt Tillie, whose memory is honored every time Lindbeck and other family members say these words. You can always count on Lindbeck’s family to have lefse, traditional Norwegian flatbread, at their Thanksgiving table. Lefse is made from potato-based dough and cooked on a griddle. Lindbeck usually buys it from a Stanwood baker. “Many Scandinavian families make it together for the holiday season,” she said. “It’s a real tradition.”

Lindbeck runs the Uff Da Shoppe in Stanwood and lives on Camano Island.

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Carmen Godinez Sullivan of Lake Stevens has a tradition in her family for everyone around the table to say what they are thankful for, like being together or the gift of faith.

They also say the traditional Catholic mealtime prayer: “Bless us, o Lord, and these thy gifts, which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ our Lord. Amen.”

Godinez Sullivan says the prayer not just on holidays but before every meal. Godinez Sullivan and her husband traveled to see his family in Texas this week. They celebrated Thanksgiving with their children and grandchildren last week instead.

Katya Yefimova: 425-339-3452; kyefimova@heraldnet.com

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