Thanksgiving ‘Prayers’ for Secular Families

By Wendy Thomas Russell | November 24, 2011 | 2 comments

I recently became a member of a Facebook group called Mothers Beyond Belief, sort of an offshoot of Dale McGowan’s Parenting Beyond Belief community. It’s an online support group for secular moms.

So last week the mother of a 5-year-old shared that her daughter wanted to say a “pray” before meals. The family doesn’t believe, and therefore doesn’t pray, so the mom was looking for other things the family could say instead. I loved the question, especially in light of this particular holiday. Thanksgiving dinner is one of those meals so extraordinary that it practically cries out for some type of deeper acknowledgement. At my house, we usually end up toasting the cook, which is infinitely appropriate but also lacks the power of prayer. Something about joining your hands and closing your eyes and really thinking about what’s been done for you on that day, and throughout the year.

In that spirit, I thought I’d give you a few kid-friendly secular prayers — the first two came out of the Facebook thread, the second two courtesy of Maybe you’ll use them today. Maybe you won’t. But isn’t it nice to have the option? Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Now we come together
We are glad to see each other.
All the good things that we share,
come to us with love and care.

Earth we thank you for our food,
for work and play and all that’s good,
for wind and rain and sun above,
but most all for those we love.

We love our bread.
We love our butter.
But most of all,
we love each other.

Thank you for the food we eat.
Thank you for the friends we meet.
Thank you for the birds that sing.
We give thanks for everything.





  1. Rachel says:

    My way of “praying” before meals goes back to my days as a liberal protestant minister engaged in much interfaith social justice work. I shared many meals with people of various faiths (or no faith). Not wanting to offend, but also aware of that lull after a meal has been served but before everyone picks up their forks, I would look around the table (no closing eyes) say something like, “I am so thankful for this time we have together, for this food we are about to eat, and the conversations to take place.” People never seem to be offended by such an expression.

    I said something similar on my first date with my partner, who has never professed faith in any god. He responded in kind and then said, “Did we just pray?” But he really liked it. So it continues with us. We pause before each meal, hold hands (only when we are alone), we look at each other, and express our feelings of gratitude, bringing up whatever it is for which we are thankful on that day. The slight pause reminds us to slow down – to enjoy the food and to enjoy the time together – and it takes us out of ourselves and our worries for a moment. It also brings up wonderful conversation topics for over the meal.

    Personally, I have found such “prayers” to be more mindful and intentional – helping me focus on what is really important and setting the tone for the whole meal – than the rote prayers my family or church said when growing up. Those prayers always seemed like the we were standing at the starting line of a race, waiting for the gun shot (or “amen”) to signal the beginning. As a kid, I remember actually saying, “Amen. Dig in.” I wasn’t feeling any gratitude, just a desire to chow down.

    Thanks for sharing these kid-friendly secular prayer.

  2. sarah says:

    Thanks for these! My daughter actually used to use #3 when she was into Madeline.

    I wish that group wasn’t on facebook, it’s such a great idea!

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Due out March 31, Relax, It's Just God: How and Why to Talk to Your Kids About Religion When You're Not Religious offers a well-researched look at a timely subject: secular parenting. With chapters on avoiding indoctrination, talking about death, vaccinating kids against intolerance, dealing with religious baggage, and getting along with religious relatives, the book offers a refreshingly compassionate approach to raising religiously literate, highly tolerant and critically thinking children capable of making up their own minds about what to believe. The book may be pre-ordered by visiting Brown Paper Press.

      Natural Wonderers is my new blog published by the Patheos faith network. An extension of my previous blog — Relax, It's Just God — Natural Wonderers offers stories and advice on raising curious, compassionate children in secular families.
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