An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church

General Thanksgiving

The BCP includes two prayers of General Thanksgiving. The traditional prayer of General Thanksgiving was composed by Edward Reynolds (1599-1676), Bishop of Norwich. It was possibly inspired by a private prayer of Queen Elizabeth that was issued in 1596. Prior to the 1604 revision of the Prayer Book, Puritans complained that there were not enough prayers of thanksgiving in the Prayer Book. This prayer was added to the Prayer Book in 1662 under the heading, "A General Thanksgiving." It preceded other prayers of thanksgiving for particular benefits. This prayer asks God to "give us such an awareness of your mercies, that with truly thankful hearts we may show forth your praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to your service, and by walking before you in holiness and righteousness all our days" (BCP, p. 101). The first American Prayer Book (1789) required use of this prayer at every Daily Office. In 1892 its use became optional, except on Sundays when the litany or eucharist did not follow immediately. The prayer appears as "The General Thanksgiving" in the 1979 BCP. It precedes "A Prayer of St. Chrysostom" and the dismissal at the close of Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer (BCP, pp. 58-59, 71-72, 101, 125). Its use is optional. The General Thanksgiving is said by the officiant and the people.

The 1979 BCP also includes "A General Thanksgiving" among the Prayers and Thanksgivings found near the end of the BCP (p. 836). This new occasional prayer of thanksgiving was composed by the Rev. Charles P. Price. It thanks God for the splendor of creation, for the blessing of family and friends, for tasks which demand our best efforts, for disappointments that lead us to acknowledge our dependence on God, for Jesus, and for his resurrection that raises us to the life of God's kingdom, and for the gift of the Spirit through whom we give thanks to God in all things.

Glossary definitions provided courtesy of Church Publishing Incorporated, New York, NY,(All Rights reserved) from “An Episcopal Dictionary of the Church, A User Friendly Reference for Episcopalians,” Don S. Armentrout and Robert Boak Slocum, editors.