Prayer and your ‘thankfulness' quotient
I used to teach High School. I loved the age group. I enjoyed challenging their minds with new ideas and seeing them grasp concepts never before imagined. At that level of education, a teacher has the pleasure of interacting on a fast paced level. The students not only have a great capacity for knowledge but they are on the brink of their own adult lives. But there was one disturbing thing I observed in that environment and that was the lack of thankfulness. I rarely heard the phrase, "thank you," from any of my students - not that I was looking for gratitude but the general feeling of thankfulness was totally absent from their minds. I really loved these teenagers but it puzzled me about this particular character flaw and how thankfulness seemed to have gone by the wayside in their development.
In our prayer conversations with God, I wonder about the ‘thankfulness' quotient. When I look at the measure of thankfulness in my own life, I like to think of my childhood. The beautiful, innocent spirit of gratitude that came out of me when I least expected something - like the unexpected gift one special Christmas or the surprise when my brother came home from the military during the time of Vietnam. But in retrospect, I see another measure of thankfulness - those things of my history that warm my heart: a delicious Sunday meal prepared by my mother's hands, the feeling of belonging to people who loved me, the many people, places and events that taught me invaluable lessons. It is good for me to recount those things often as they contribute to the ‘thankfulness' quotient I have on a daily basis.
One of the reasons for ingratitude perhaps stems from the notion that we did all the work ourselves and we seldom acknowledge God's direction and provision of everything we experience. We earn money and we purchase things with the money we earned. We educate ourselves and receive acknowledgement at work for our accomplishments. We bring up our children and we pride ourselves in how well they grow and excel. We often look to the sum of all our deeds and have the shallow perspective that we authored the whole script of success. (Notice all the personal pronouns in those sentences.) Then something drastic happens in our life and we take inventory again. If we are attuned to His voice, we hear Him say, "Where have you been? I have missed you and your dependence and trust in Me." When we see that He has been there the whole time just waiting to receive our worship of thanksgiving, acknowledging His gift of life and its abundances and then pouring His generous spirit into our emptied souls, how can we not bow down and worship Him in gratefulness and give Him back the authorship He deserves as our help. It was His great gift to our unexpected hearts that gave us purpose - a purpose that will last forever. All our striving for our ‘best to impress' is truly worthless in light of what will count in heaven as well as what really counts here on earth.
When our prayers are filled with thanksgiving, the Lord seems to create a greater perspective for us as we speak with Him in prayer. When I first read the prayers of the Old Testament, I was so impressed with the lists of thanksgiving at the beginning of these written prayers. God's character takes on immeasurable facets when we take the time to identify all the areas of just thanking Him for all varieties of His expression of love towards us. Intentionally listing your thankfulness changes your outlook and fills your prayers with His character rather than just your petitions which He gratefully receives.
"Give thanks to Him and bless His Name. For the Lord is good. His unfailing love continues forever, and His faithfulness continues to each generation." Psalm 100:4b-5 - New Living Translation.