Thanksgiving is a distinctly American holiday. Our forefathers understood that our national blessing was predicated by our submission and obedience to God and His laws. During this time of unusual national division and quarrelling, let us be reminded by our former leaders of the source of national blessing and peace.
The Continental Congress that assembled between 1774 and 1789 offered several calls for days of humiliation, prayer and thanksgiving. The first call to national prayer and giving of thanks was to be observed on November 28, 1782. Part of the proclamation reads:
It being the indispensable duty of all nations, not only to offer up their supplications to Almighty God, the giver of all good, for His gracious assistance in times of distress, but also in a solemn and public manner, to give Him praise for His goodness in general, and especially for great and signal interpositions of His Providence in their behalf; therefore, the United States in Congress assembled . . . Do hereby recommend it to the inhabitants of these states in general, to observe and request the several states to interpose their authority, in appointing and commanding the observation of Thursday the twenty-eighth day of November next as a day of solemn thanksgiving to God for all His mercies; and they do further recommend to all ranks to testify their gratitude to God for His goodness by a cheerful obedience to His laws and by promoting, each in his station, and by his influence, the practice of true and undefiled religion, which is the the great foundation of public prosperity and national happiness.
Not long after he was sworn in as president, George Washington issued a proclamation designating November 26, 1789 as a Day of Thanksgiving where all citizens should give thanks to God for His protection, His care and His blessings. This was the first Thanksgiving Day designated by the government of the United States. A portion of the proclamation reads:
Whereas it is the duty of all Nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits, and humbly to implore his protection and favor, and whereas both Houses of Congress have by their joint Committee requested me “to recommend to the People of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many signal favors of Almighty God especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness.”
Now therefore I do recommend and assign Thursday the 26th day of November next to be devoted by the People of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being, who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be. That we may then all unite in rendering unto him our sincere and humble thanks, for his kind care and protection of the People of this Country . . . And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech him to pardon our national and other transgressions, to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually, to render our national government a blessing to all the people, by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed, to protect and guide all Sovereigns and Nations (especially such as have shown kindness unto us) and to bless them with good government, peace, and concord.
Given under my hand at the City of New York the third day of October in the year of our Lord 1789.
Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a day of giving thanks in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. Even though America was involved in a civil war, President Lincoln mentioned many reasons that Americans had for giving thanks to God. Abraham Lincoln wrote:
No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that these blessings should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and voice by the whole American people. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
Let’s all take some time today to give thank for God’s abundance and mercy. And let’s take some time to pray for the healing of our nation.
If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land (2 Chronicles 7:14).