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Faith in Action: My Favorite Prayer

Thanksgiving has long been one of my favorite holidays. I love that our nation sets aside a day of gratitude for all the blessings we have received as a nation. I love the morning Mass, which is full of people who really want to be there to say thank you to God.

I’ve also found that giving thanks to God is my favorite type of prayer. This began nearly 70 years ago at a Thanksgiving Mass that I still remember clearly all these years later. I was probably around eight or nine years old, and I was with my family at Our Lady of Lourdes church on Thanksgiving morning.

As I came back from receiving communion and knelt to pray, a litany of thanks began in my heart. I thanked God for my health, my parents, my family, my school, my friends, being able to play sports, the sisters who taught us, the priests who guided us, the big family dinner to come, and more.

This spontaneous litany went on for maybe three or four minutes, and I’ve never forgotten that moment and how close I felt to God as I thanked him for so many blessings. I look back on that as a significant moment for me as a young boy. It was one of the first times I spoke to God from my heart, one of my first real moments of personal prayer.

I later learned that there are four types of prayer, one of which is giving thanks. We can remember them using the acronym ACTS.

Adoration is the Gloria at Mass, praying before the Eucharist, or praising God in our own prayers – are all ways to tell God how we adore his presence in our lives.

Contrition is telling God we’re sorry, something we all need to do. I’ve told the Lord many times and in many confessions that I am sorry for my failures to be who I am called to be and to live up to the gifts he has given me.

Thanksgiving is, of course, expressing our gratitude for our many blessings. We can do this spur of the moment, but it often requires devoting time to reflect upon and becoming more conscious of the blessings we have.

Supplication is a word we don’t use that often anymore, but it is simply petitioning God. We pray for the health and well-being of loved ones, for those we know who are suffering, for someone who has lost a job, for family issues, for those who have died, for peace in the world, and so much more.

These are all important ways to talk to God about our lives and our needs. For me, thanksgiving prayer especially fills my heart and gives me a real sense of closeness to God. It is my favorite way to be with and experience our God who loves us so much.

At this time of year, I also think ahead in a spirit of thanksgiving about what’s to come as we rejoice in the joy, fulfillment, and happiness of Advent and the Christmas season. I am always grateful for the lights, decorations, music, the special goodies that arrive at our rectory every year, for the gifts I receive and the friendships they represent.

The greatest gift of all is that God sent his son to save us through his death and Resurrection. Do we regularly thank God for that gift of our own salvation? Are we as conscious as we should be of what God gave to us, what Jesus did for us, and how we can celebrate that throughout this holy season?

The ultimate form of thanksgiving prayer is the Eucharist. The very word comes from the Greek eucharista, which means “thanksgiving.” Maybe my love for the Eucharist goes back to that spontaneous litany of thanks nearly 70 years ago. Every Mass is another opportunity for me to rejoice in the gift of a God who does so much for us, and to thank God for the blessings I have received and the blessings of the Church family around me.

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy the Mass as a sacred meal in which to eat the bread of life and enjoy the feast with loved ones later in the day. May our hearts overflow with gratitude to and for the God who loves us more than we can ever imagine.  

(Msgr. John Enzler serves as the mission advocate of Catholic Charities of The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Washington and is a chaplain at his alma mater, St. John’s College High School in Washington. He writes the Faith in Action column for the archdiocese’s Catholic Standard and Spanish-language El Pregonero newspapers and websites.)