That is, the prayer for the meal is often comparable to the garnish on the side of the turkey platter: nice to look at, but largely ignored, and basically irrelevant to the meal. I can appreciate how these perfunctory prayers can make everyone happy: some people are glad that a family tradition was upheld, while others are grateful that it was bland and short.
For what it is worth, I don’t think that the prayer on Thanksgiving Day is a good time to needlessly offend people or start a conflict. That probably won’t build trust and openness in these important relationships.
But if your family is united in devotion to Christ, or if you are looking for a Biblically rich prayer for Thanksgiving, you might enjoy this prayer of Evening Praise, which is originally from the Puritans. The prayer is cross-centered, grace-centered, and God-centered. It is a humbling prayer that encourages joyful, lifelong obedience to our Redeemer. And it overflows with thanksgiving for all of God’s gifts to us.
Giver of all, another day is ended and I take my place beneath my great Redeemer’s cross, where healing streams continually descend, where balm is poured into every wound, where I wash anew in the all-cleansing blood, assured that Thou seest in me no spots of sin. Yet a little while and I shall go to Thy home and be no more seen; help me to gird up the loins of my mind, to quicken my step, to speed as if each moment were my last, that my life be joy, my death glory.
I thank Thee for the temporal blessings of this world—the refreshing air, the light of the sun, the food that renews strength, the raiment that clothes, the dwelling that shelters, the sleep that gives rest, the starry canopy of night, the summer breeze, the flowers’ sweetness, the music of flowing streams, the happy endearments of family, kindred, friends. Things animate, things inanimate, minister to my comfort. My cup runs over. Suffer me not to be insensible to these daily mercies. Thy hand bestows blessings: Thy power averts evil.
I bring my tribute of thanks for spiritual graces, the full warmth of faith, the cheering presence of Thy Spirit, the strength of Thy restraining will, Thy spiking of hell’s artillery. Blessed be my sovereign Lord!
This prayer is originally from The Valley of Vision, ed. by Arthur Bennett, which is a wonderful prayer book for personal and family devotions.