Christ Lutheran Church of the Deaf
Silver Spring, Maryland

Thanksgiving Prayer

The most often quoted Thanksgiving prayer found in the Bible is this:

Hodu le-Adonai ki tov, ki le-'olam khesedo.

Give thanks to the LORD because He is good!
Because to eternity is His khesed [love, mercy, grace]!

O give thanks unto the L
ORD, for He is good:
for His mercy endureth forever.

This sentence appears exactly in this form five times in the Psalms  (106, 107, 118 [twice], and 136).  Each one of those psalms opens with this prayer, and then the psalm continues by telling about
God's wonderful work in creation,
His great acts of salvation for Israel,
His protection for His people,
and His blessing for all of His creatures.

Psalm 136 has 26 verses.  Each verse is a statement of God's character or God's action, telling us who God is and what God does.  Then, in response to these statements of praise, every verse ends with

"Because His love continues forever!"

Psalm 107 opens with the prayer "Give thanks to the Lord, because He is good, because His love continues forever!"  And then four more times it says...

Yodu le-Adonai, khesedo we-nifl'otayo le-benei adam.

Let them give thanks to the LORD
for His khesed [love, mercy, grace]
and His wonderful works to the children of men!

Faithful Jews often worshipped God with these psalms.  They could sing them for memory.

There are two events in the Old Testament when the people sang "Give thanks to the Lord for He is good..."  and as a result, strange and wonderful things happened.

The first was at the dedication of the new temple in Jerusalem, when Solomon was king. 

The priests brought the ark of the LORD's covenant to its place in the Most Holy Room of the temple...  They sang, "He is good.  His faithful love continues forever."   Then a cloud filled the temple of the LORD.  The priests couldn't do their work because of it.  The glory of the LORD filled God's temple.   (2 Chronicles 5:7-14 NIrV)

Think about our Sunday morning worship.  Has it ever happened that God has responded to our praise to Him by filling the room with His glory so that we must stop the service? 

About 370 years after that temple dedication service, the temple was destroyed by the army of Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (Iraq).   The 130 years after that, the Jews who were able to return to Jerusalem started rebuilding the temple.   And as they did, the priests and people worshipped God with the same thanksgiving prayer:

The builders laid the foundation of the LORD's temple. Then the priests came... They sang to the LORD.  They praised him.  They gave thanks to him.  They said.  "The LORD is good.  His faithful love to Israel continues forever."  (Ezra 3:10-11 NIrV)

The second strange and wonderful event related to this thanksgiving prayer is the story of King Jehoshaphat (he lived about 100 years after the time of King Solomon).  Three enemy kings had made a pact to combine their armies to attack Jerusalem.  Three against one! In response, Jehoshaphat made a very wise decision.  He asked all the people to pray and beg God for His help.    God sent a prophet to tell the people:

"King Jehoshaphat, listen!  All you who live in Judah and Jerusalem, listen!  The LORD says to you, Do not be afraid.  Do not lose hope because of this huge army.  The battle is not yours. It is Mine."  (2 Chronicles 20:15 NIrV)

This is how they fought the battle:

Early in the morning all of the people left for the Desert of Tekoa.  As they started out, Jehoshaphat stood up.  He said, "Judah, listen to me!  People of Jerusalem, listen to me!  Have faith in the Lord your God..."  Then he appointed men to sing to the Lord.  He wanted them to praise Him because of His glory and holiness.  They marched out in front of the army.  They said,
"Give thanks to the Lord.
His faithful love continues forever."
(2 Chronicles 20:20,21 NIrV)

While they sang this thanksgiving prayer, they watched the three enemy armies come toward them.  Then something very strange happened.  Two armies joined together and started fighting against the third army.  After the two armies destroyed the third army, they turned to fight against each other, while Israel still watched and sang, "Give thanks to the Lord!"   When the battle was over, all three enemy armies had destroyed each other, and the only thing left for Israel to do was to pick up the loot and bury the dead.  

During the life and ministry of Jesus, whenever He had food, He had a thanksgiving prayer.

At the feeding of the 5,000...

He took the seven loaves of bread and the fish and gave thanks to God. Then he divided the food and gave it to his followers, and they gave it to the people. (Matthew 15:36 NCV)

At the Last Supper...

While they were eating, Jesus took some bread and thanked God for it and broke it. Then he gave it to his followers and said, "Take this bread and eat it; this is my body."  Then Jesus took a cup and thanked God for it and gave it to the followers. He said,  "Every one of you drink this.  This is my blood which is the new agreement that God makes with his people. This blood is poured out for many to forgive their sins."  (Matthew 26:26-28 NCV)

One of the names for the Lord's Supper is Eucharist, which is from the Greek word for "give-thanks." 

What prayer did Jesus use to give thanks for His food?   The Bible does not tell us.  But Jesus may have used the same thanksgiving prayers that Jewish people still recite today...

Baruch atah Adonai,
Elohenu Melech ha-olam,
ha-motzi lechem min ha-aretz.

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God,
King of the universe
who brings forth bread from the earth.

Baruch atah Adonai,
Elohenu Melech ha-olam,
borei pr'i ha-gaffen.

Blessed art Thou, O Lord our God,
King of the universe
who created the fruit of the vine.

When the Apostle Paul teaches Christians to pray, he reminds us that thanksgiving is an important part of prayer:

Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks.  And God's peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6 NCV)

Continue praying, keeping alert, and always thanking God.  (Colossians 4:2 NCV)

Always be joyful.  Pray continually, and give thanks whatever happens. That is what God wants for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NCV)

Often we pray anxiously for people we love -- or for ourselves.  Often we pray, fearful that God will chose not to help.  What is missing?  What do we need to restore the peace and confidence in God's goodness?  Thanksgiving! 

As we saw in the Old Testament thanksgiving prayer, we praise God for who He is -- "good" -- and we thank Him for what He does -- shows khesed, love & mercy.  Praise and thanks teach our hearts to trust God through the hard times.  And the result of knowing God's goodness is God's peace, resting in Christ Jesus.

And if you feel that your faith is weak, and that you can't think of good reasons why you should thank God when you hit Him with your requests, spend some time in Romans 8, slowly digesting every word and every sentence.

    The Spirit we received does not make us slaves again to fear; it makes us children of God. With that Spirit we cry out, "Father."  And the Spirit himself joins with our spirits to say we are God's children...
    Also, the Spirit helps us with our weakness. We do not know how to pray as we should. But the Spirit himself speaks to God for us, even begs God for us with deep feelings that words cannot explain.  God can see what is in people's hearts. And he knows what is in the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit speaks to God for his people in the way God wants.
    We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him. They are the people he called, because that was his plan.  God knew them before he made the world, and he decided that they would be like his Son so that Jesus would be the firstborn of many brothers.  God planned for them to be like his Son; and those he planned to be like his Son, he also called; and those he called, he also made right with him; and those he made right, he also glorified.
     So what should we say about this? If God is with us, no one can defeat us.  He did not spare his own Son but gave him for us all. So with Jesus, God will surely give us all things.  Who can accuse the people God has chosen? No one, because God is the One who makes them right  Who can say God's people are guilty? No one, because Christ Jesus died, but he was also raised from the dead, and now he is on God's right side, begging God for us.   Can anything separate us from the love Christ has for us? Can troubles or problems or sufferings or hunger or nakedness or danger or violent death?  ... But in all these things we have full victory through God who showed his love for us.  Yes, I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor ruling spirits, nothing now, nothing in the future, no powers, nothing above us, nothing below us, nor anything else in the whole world will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8: 14-38 NCV)

Give thanks to the LORD because He is good!
Because His love, mercy, and grace continue forever!