Of all the virtues, gratitude is queen. Giving thanks to God is the most lovely virtue and it’s the mother of all that is good. That’s because “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (James 1:17) and appreciating this is the way we participate in God’s blessings for us and others.
Gratitude Research shows that grateful people are healthier, happier, and have more friends. Most of us know this, but are prone to allow our thankfulness to be overtaken by things like worry, boredom with the mundane, time pressure, negative people, or pain.
How to Grow in Gratitude
The great apostle urges us, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). How do we do this? By keeping our mind on the goodness and beauty of God. How do we do that? By cultivating a heart habit of thankfulness. How do we do that? By getting the word of God imbedded into our body. (Read William Law’s explanation of developing a habit of thankfulness in “Thankfulness: The Way to Holiness and Happiness.”)
One way I’ve done this is by praying a little gratitude prayer with my body over and over so many times that it became unconscious. I did this with the prayer, “Thank you Lord.” (Jesus prayed this prayer to the Father in Matthew 11:25.)
I put my body into this prayer by using a simple Breath Prayer rhythm of breathing in, “Thank you,” and breathing out,”Lord.” I taught myself to use my breathing in and out as a prayer: breathing in to receive from God and breathing out to submit to my Lord. Thankfulness to God and submission to his will (or abandoning outcomes to him) are the first two prayers of the Lord’s Prayer.
Then I repeated this prayer countless times for intensive periods over many months. (We have to train ourselves to grow in godliness, 1 Timothy 4:7.) In particular I did this while jogging long distances when I was tired. Eventually, it happened that even when I had not consciously intended to do so I’d often find myself pausing to breathe, “Thank you… Lord.”
What a blessing this has been! It’s just three syllables. Just a breath. Just a smile to God. But it’s given a lift to my attitude! Try it and see for yourself.
Thank you Lord Jesus Christ. You are wonderful to us. You are faithful and your love endures forever. Your Spirit lifts us up like the eagle is lifted by the wind currents. Teach us Lord to be grateful all the time, not just on Thanksgiving day, not just when times are good, but even in difficult times. Amen.