Offering prayers of gratitude no matter what? It's not as easy as it sounds
I don’t know about you, but God has heard an awful lot of requests from me over the years. “Lord, help me with this, and that, and the other thing …” I actually think that God say to me once “You already asked that” in a rather stern tone … and if He didn’t, I wouldn’t have blamed Him if He did!
After my rather jolting reversion to the Catholic faith, it’s been an exciting time getting to know this God who created me, my family and the whole universe. Integrating faith at home was a priority. My wife and children, about 5 and 9 at the time, were all too happy to join in this process of talking to God.
We set out to create a ‘prayer schedule,’ praying as a family, first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening, and adding intentions. You know, asking for things. The list became pretty long as we prayed for pretty much everybody that we knew: new acquaintances, people with troubles, pets, you name it. I was working in New York City at the time, so every day there would be the addition of at least one homeless person, so the list grew. In fact, we had to begin writing the names down, lest we forget someone. After a few weeks, though, this got pretty old; prayer time was feeling repetitious and boring, which is not exactly what you strive for in prayer — especially with young children.
Calling a family meeting, we decided to choose one primary intention for each day, a prayer orientation so to speak. Sunday was for the Church and clergy, Monday was for family; Tuesday was for people who had it tough, Wednesday was for marriage and relationships; Friday was for friends and Saturday was for the deceased, and Thursday? My daughter likes to take the credit for coming up with “Thankful Thursday.” In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
Thus, on Thursdays every single prayer that we utter, regardless of what was going on or whatever disaster was looming, had to be a prayer of thanks.
Why not? This seemed perfect!
It’s not as easy as you might think. We were so used to asking God for literally everything, from healings to getting the dryer to stop squeaking, that spinning every prayer towards gratitude was an epic struggle. On every other day we could rattle off our intentions without missing a beat, but on Thursdays everyone was drawing blanks, and straining to find gratitude. “Thanks for our family and friends, your love and your mercy … Amen.”
In theory, we should have been able to go on without end about the things we are thankful for, but, in practice, not so much at first.
But Thankful Thursday presented us with precisely the challenge we needed; to take the time to really consider the literally countless blessings God has bestowed on us. It provoked a lot of conversation at prayer time as we helped one another identify the things we should be grateful for.
Over the years it re-formed us, tuned us in to what God really deserves from us –our gratitude. The effects have been nothing short of transformational as we’ve discovered how clearly gratitude is the root of awe, and of authentic joy. We’ve learned that if you can find your way back to awe, you become like a little child again — full of wonder at the great mystery and gift of creation – full of joy that we have been created at all, and allowed to experience this journey of life together in our relationships, and to have a genuine connection, a real, living bond with the One who formed it all.
And that’s something to be grateful for.