On this Thanksgiving day, the nation pauses to render thanks for the blessings we have received. We commemorate the thanksgiving banquet celebrated by the Pilgrims for a bountiful harvest following a rough winter. As our society becomes more secular and materialistic, it seems that our giving of thanks to God can easily become perfunctory.
Just before I started to write this post, I received A Word on Gratitude from a professional blogger. I do not know if he is Christian or not, but I found his words so refreshing I decided to share them with you.
My intention for this post is to focus attention not on thanksgiving itself, but praise. We thank people and God for something they have done for us, or we should. We praise people and God for who they are, for some kind of inherent characteristic.
Here are some words of praise:
- My wife, a retired teacher, cares so much about children that she worked to get certification to teach English as a Second Language and went back into the classroom.
- I once had a neighbor who was the most generous person I have ever met.
- God made the vastness of the whole universe, the tininess of the smallest sub-atomic particle, and cares so much about all he has made that he even loves me (and you) individually.
Too often, when God or anyone else does something nice for us, we find it too easy to take it for granted or even complain that it’s the wrong thing or not enough. Ingratitude does not make anyone feel good–certainly not the person who deserves thanks instead of neglect or criticism, and certainly not the inconsiderate person who does not seize the opportunity to give thanks.
So think of how intense, personal, and even joyful an expression of thanksgiving can be when we go into it with an attitude of praise. Here are two wonderful examples from the Bible:
David wanted to build a temple to God, but God forbade him. That honor would go to his son Solomon. Instead of becoming embittered, David decided to do some advance fundraising. His project was wildly successful, and he held a dedication ceremony for the offering. Notice that the expression of thanks in v. 13 almost gets lost in the surrounding expression of praise.
Daniel, facing a death sentence because of the failure of astrologers to tell King Nebuchadnezzar what he had dreamed, went to the king and promised to reveal the dream if the king would give him some time. He had no more idea what the dream was than anyone else, but he and three close friends had a prayer meeting. God revealed the dream and its meaning to Daniel. Daniel’s prayer after receiving the answer consists of three verses of praise followed by one verse of thanksgiving.
God is every bit as great and glorious in our time as he was in David’s and Daniel’s. Prefacing all of our prayers with words of praise will accomplish at least six things:
- It will put us in a mood for genuine, heartfelt thanksgiving, where without it we are likely to offer no more than a perfunctory formula. Notice how tiny and insufficient the actual expression of thanks in David’s prayer would seem without the surrounding praise.
- It will eventually open our eyes to blessings we had hardly noticed before.
- It will take our minds off our problems and focus them on God, making the problems not seem so daunting.
- It will strengthen our faith.
- It will open lines of communication between us and God so that we will discern God’s voice more distinctly, understand his words more clearly, and obey more willingly.
- It will make praise more spontaneous in the future than whatever awkwardness we might encounter at first.