How to Thank God at Thanksgiving

November 15th, 2020 / 3 Comments

The uncontrolling love of God view has positive implications for how we think about prayers of thanksgiving. If correct, thanking an uncontrolling God makes sense.

Let’s take the Thanksgiving holiday meal as a case study.

Each November, Americans gather with family or friends to celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday. Words of thanks sometimes enter the public news or get expressed at civic gatherings. It’s natural to wonder what people believe when they say, “Thank you, God.”

No God

One group of people doesn’t believe in God. Many of them feel thankful, but their Thanksgiving language has no ultimate Referent. In their view, no Divine Being exists to which their gratitude ultimately points. Giving thanks to God may their way to admit they’ve been recipients of goodness.

Although unbelievers say, “Thank you, God,” their disbelief that a Being exists to whom they should be grateful makes their statement confusing.

All God

Those who say God controls everything — All God — ​express gratitude at Thanksgiving. They believe God directly or indirectly controls everything.

In their Thanksgiving prayer, All God advocates can say, “Thank you, God, for ____,” and insert any event. Such events might be supremely joyful or utterly horrific. The God who controls everything is responsible for every act of respect and rape, for peace and pain, for havens or holocausts.

Most All God prayers focus on the good. Reminding All God advocates that their God causes evil dampens the holiday spirit!

The Allowing God

Advocates of conventional theology also pray at Thanksgiving. They usually reject the idea God causes evil. But they claim God allows it.

When people who adopt conventional theology give thanks, they try to sidestep the theological problems that come with saying God allows evil. They blame free agents or natural forces and ignore the question of why a God who can singlehandedly stop evil permits unnecessary suffering. The God who can control others failed to prevent the dastardly deeds we endure.

When people who accept the conventional view pray, they could insert any event into “Thank you, God, for _____.” The God of conventional theology gets ultimate credit or blame for causing or allowing all things.

The Uncontrolling God of Love

Thanksgiving prayers make more sense in the uncontrolling love of God perspective. Advocates of this view thank God for always giving freedom, agency, or existence to creatures and creation. God presents a spectrum of possibilities to each creature in each moment.

The uncontrolling God of love is the gracious source for all that’s good. This God actively loves moment by moment by providing, inspiring, empowering, and interacting with creation. And this God calls all creatures to respond in love.

The genuine evil in the world results from the responses creatures make contrary to God’s calls, or from the natural accidents and free processes of reality. God does not cause nor allow evil.

Thanksgiving Prayer that Makes Sense

In her Thanksgiving prayer, an advocate of the uncontrolling love view can say every good and perfect gift originates in God. An active but uncontrolling God is the source of goodness and blessing but can’t singlehandedly prevent evil.

The good we enjoy also involves creaturely responses to God’s gracious action. The uncontrolling love view supports our urge to thank creatures at Thanksgiving.

Most believers thank one another, as if they intuitively know creatures join with God to do good. It’s right to thank God for acting as the ultimate source of goodness, but we should also thank those who cooperate with God.

We can thank God and the cook!

Widely Indebted

The more we realize how interrelated the universe is and how much God loves in an uncontrolling way, the more we understand how widely we are indebted. A Thanksgiving meal is possible because of God’s action, a chef or chefs, farmers, those who transport food, those who make the plates, tables, and homes we use when celebrating, and so many more.

God inspires goodness throughout all creation. We have many reasons to be thankful… and many to thank!

Thanksgiving Prayer

In light of this, here’s a thanksgiving prayer that aligns with a vision that God always loves in uncontrolling ways…

“We thank you, our loving God, for being the source of all that good.

You empower and inspire the good we receive from others.

We’re also thankful to humans and nonhumans for cooperating with you.

We are grateful people, because we find you to be a good and loving God!”

The one who thinks God's love is always uncontrolling can thank God for being the source of all things good without implying God caused or allowed all things evil. Click To Tweet
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Helpful in its timeliness and clarity!

Matt Palm

It would be great to have an actual prayer as an example of what you’re talking about. Did I miss the sample prayer?


Good idea! I’ll add that when I get a chance.

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