Before You Set the Table

Imagine it’s Thanksgiving morning and festivities will be held at your house this year. Your family sleeps in. No one is in any rush to get started. Your dad forgot to thaw the turkey, so you’ll be having your dinner with a side of salmonella this year. (Yuck!) Your mom forgot to buy green beans, potatoes, or rolls. The only side dish she’ll be serving is bags of chips. No one bothered to look up dessert recipes. You and your siblings whip up something with what’s in the pantry, but it doesn’t look (or taste) very good. While this Thanksgiving scenario would certainly be memorable, it likely wouldn’t result in thankful hearts. But isn’t this how we approach this holiday most years? We expect to wake up to thankful hearts when we’ve done no prep work. The problem is our hearts don’t naturally bend toward gratitude. We’re too broken for that. We tend to default to selfishness, grumbling, and ingratitude.

If we are going to sit down at the table truly grateful for the gifts God has given us, we’ve got some heart prep to do.

It is possible to feel truly grateful for all that God has done for you, but not without a plan. Gratitude doesn’t just “happen.” There’s no massive switch in the heavenlies that gets flipped Thanksgiving morning to give us all thankful hearts. If we are going to sit down at the table truly grateful for the gifts God has given us, we’ve got some heart prep to do.

Seven Psalms of Gratitude

Between today and Thanksgiving morning, there are seven days. While you’re busy preparing for Thanksgiving festivities, we want to help you prepare your heart. We’ve picked seven of our favorite Psalms of Thanksgiving and assigned them each to the days between now and Thanksgiving. Carve out daily time for the next week to read through each psalm and consider the questions below.

Day 1: Psalm 34

Through the ages, King David invites us to join him in a song of thanksgiving.

I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul makes its boast in the LORD; let the humble hear and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt his name together! (vv. 1–3).

Read through all of Psalm 34 and consider:

  • What had God done for David? What has God done for you?

What does David invite us to do in verse 8? How have you seen that the Lord is good?

Day 2: Psalm 100

In this psalm, David expresses his gratitude in a very specific way, through music.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth! Serve the Lord with gladness! Come into his presence with singing! (v. 1–2).

Read through Psalm 100 and consider:

  • What kinds of music make you feel grateful?
  • What kinds of music affect your mood in a negative way, making you feel angry, sad, or discontented?
  • What is your favorite worship song? Write out the lyrics as your own psalm of thanksgiving.

Day 3: Psalm 107

You’ll need some extra time to read through this psalm today; it’s a bit longer than the ones we’ve covered so far. The first verse reminds us why it’s worth taking the time to give thanks.

Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (v. 1).

This psalm invites us to look past our blessings that are temporary and think about all the things that God has done for us that will last. Read through Psalm 107 and consider:

  • Go through and circle every time the words “steadfast love” are found in this psalm. (The esv version says “steadfast love.” Other versions say “unfailing love,” “faithful love,” or His “wonderful works.” The core meaning is the same. God’s love never ends!)
  • How often do you stop and thank God for loving you no matter what?
  • Verse 2 says, “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so.” How can you share your faith with others during this season?

Day 4: Psalm 117

This psalm is short and sweet. Here’s the whole thing in just two verses!

Praise the Lord, all nations! Extol him, all peoples! For great is his steadfast love toward us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever. Praise the Lord!

Read through Psalm 117 and consider:

  • I see a theme here, don’t you? Why is it worth celebrating that God’s love is steadfast and enduring?
  • Notice that this psalm doesn’t mention what God does for us necessarily but rather focuses on who He is. He is good to all people in all nations. Practice praising God for His character rather than always focusing on the ways He blessed you personally. Consider the gifts He offers to all mankind. What are they?

Day 5: Psalm 118

Thankfulness is a choice that we can make in every circumstance. That’s the heartbeat of this psalm, which states:

Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free (v. 5).

Thankfulness is a choice that we can make in every circumstance.

As Thanksgiving draws near, don’t just thank God for the things that have gone right in your life. Thank Him for the things that have gone wrong, and the ones that are going wrong still. He is as faithful in valleys as He is on mountaintops. Read through Psalm 118 and consider:

  • Have you faced times of “distress” this year? Looking back, can you thank God for them?
  • Focus on verses 8–9, and consider where you most often put your hope.
  • What is the commandment found in verse 29?

Day 6: Psalm 136

We can be grateful because God is so powerful. That’s the beat that drums through this psalm. It reminds us that God:

  • Alone does great wonders (v. 4).
  • Made the heavens (v. 5).
  • Divided the Red Sea in two (v. 13).
  • Struck down great kings (v. 17).
  • Remembered us in our low estate (v. 23).

Even when we feel weak and needy, we can be grateful because God is not. Read through Psalm 136 and consider:

  • Circle the phrase “give thanks” every time it appears in the psalm. Underline the phrase “steadfast love” every time it appears. Why do you think the Psalmist repeated these phrases so often?
  • This psalm lists the mighty works of God as reasons to give thanks. What other great things has God done? List them.
  • Focus on verse 26: “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.” Is there a creative way you can display this truth for your family at Thanksgiving?

Day 7: Psalm 138

This psalm invites us to go all out in giving God thanks.

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart (v. 1).

Read through Psalm 138 and consider:

  • Are you expressing gratitude half-heartedly?
  • Consider verse 4. Who will eventually express gratitude to God for all He’s done? Practice today what you will do among kings in the future. (Give thanks!)
  • Focus on verse 8. Why can we be grateful for our future?

Year-Round Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a date on the calendar in November, but it’s also a choice.

Thanksgiving is a date on the calendar in November, but it’s also a choice. God has given us every reason to be grateful, even when life is hard and our feelings go sideways. His steadfast love endures forever. I’m praying that these psalms have helped you prepare to give thanks with your whole heart, but don’t pack them up and put them away along with the fine china when Thanksgiving is over. Use them often to help your heart remember that God is worthy of our gratitude. Happy Thanksgiving!

About the Author

Erin Davis

Erin Davis is married to her high school sweetheart, Jason, and together they parent four energetic boys on their small farm in the midwest. She is the author of more than a dozen books and Bible studies, the content manager for Revive Our Hearts, and a host of the Grounded videocast. You can hear her teach on The Deep Well with Erin Davis podcast.