We’re counting down to Thanksgiving at our office. Today we continue our series tracing the history of Thanksgiving.

In 1775—more than a year before the signing of the Declaration of Independence—the Continental Congress issued a proclamation setting aside a day for colonists to fast, pray for God’s blessing, and join together for worship.

A year later in 1776 Congress issues a similar proclamation. By that time, the American Revolution was in full swing and country’s situation was dire.

In November of 1777 Congress issued a third prayer proclamation—this time calling for citizens to “acknowledge with gratitude their obligation to [God] for benefits received.” In other words, to give thanks.

Throughout the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it was fairly common for Congress to issue proclamations each year calling on Americans to pray for the nation. The 1777 proclamation is significant, because it is one of the first setting aside a day for giving thanks. Congress did not only want people to pray for the nation, but also to thank God for the blessings He had already given.

You can read the proclamation from 1777 here.

Thanksgiving is deeply woven into the fabric of our nation. It is more than just turkey, football games, parades, and Black Friday. It’s about stopping to pray and give thanks to God.

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