An Attitude of Gratitude: Prayers of Thanksgiving
Last summer, my son, Matt, who had just moved back home after being away for eight months, came into the kitchen, gave me a huge hug, and exclaimed, “Mom, thank you SO much for folding my laundry!” My first thought was to check his forehead to see if he was running a temperature. My second thought was that he was about to ask for money and was trying to butter me up. But he didn’t look flushed, and the request for cash never came. So in the end, I decided that nothing had motivated him except sheer gratitude. That hug made my day! I felt so pleased that he had noticed what I had done and that he was truly thankful for it.
It’s important to express gratitude. A simple “thank-you” shows that we recognize we’ve received something that the giver was under no obligation to give. It guards against an attitude of self-centeredness and entitlement. And it contributes to an atmosphere of goodwill in the relationship. When there is no gratitude, the giver feels unappreciated, and may become discouraged and reluctant to give again.
Gratitude is not only important in human relationships, it’s also important in our relationship with God. David, the Psalmist, knew this. He took note of the wonderful things that God did, and continually expressed appreciation for them. David said, “Let us thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of men! And let us offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of his deeds in songs of joy! (Psalm 107:21-22)
The biblical word for thanksgiving is the Greek “eucharistos.” Some church traditions use this as the name for the Lord’s supper–the Eucharist. Eucharistos means “mindful of favors,” “conscious of benefit received,” “grateful,” or simply “thankful.” Giving thanks goes way beyond praying before we eat our food. According to Scripture, it’s one of the very basic disciplines of the Christian life. The Bible commands: “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.” (Col. 4:2)
Are your prayers full of thanksgiving? Prayers of thanksgiving are somewhat different than prayers of praise or adoration. In praise and adoration, I extol who God is–his wonderful attributes of holiness, love, righteousness, justice, and so forth. But in thanksgiving, I personalize it. I acknowledge how I benefit from what God has done. I remember his gifts, and I let him know that I know where all the blessings in my life have come from. All the things I enjoy–life, health, friends, family, and even the beauty of the snow piled like dollops of sparkling cream on the boughs of the pine in my backyard–have come from his hand. In recognition of this, I stop what I’m doing, go into the kitchen and give God a huge hug, and bless him by saying . . . “Thank you SO much!!!”
One item sent in for copyright at the Library of Congress was a book written by a whimsical Texas businessman, who intended to hand out copies to his customers and friends. The title of the book was “A Million Thanks,” and it consisted of the word “Thanks” repeated one million times throughout the pages. How often do we stop to give thanks to God? Once a day? Twice a day? Three times a day? If we were to give thanks to God three times a day, in a lifetime that would amount to about 76,000 expressions of thanksgiving. That’s no where near the millions of thanks that that Texas businessman was willing to give a customer for just one small favor.
When you awoke and saw the sun shining this morning, did you give thanks? When you went to your closet and it was full of clothes, did you give thanks? When you sat down at the kitchen table and your children came bounding in, did you give thanks? When you were driving on the freeway and were cut off in traffic, did you give thanks? 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” One translation says “...this is the will of God... to you-ward.” (ASV)
It’s God’s will “you-ward” that you give thanks in every circumstance. You see, when you boil it right down, thanksgiving is not so much for his benefit as it is for ours. It changes us. It helps us stay focused on God and his grace and goodness and the exceedingly abundant riches we have in Jesus. It helps us remain mindful of him, and to live our lives aright. And in the end, that’s what honors him the most. A life of thankfulness reflects the glory of God. So let’s make a point to have an attitude of gratitude. Like David, let’s resolve: “I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart: I will recount all of your wonderful deeds. I will be glad and exult in you... O Most High.” (Psalm 9:1-2)