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.
We can grow in gratitude. The great apostle of grace urges us, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
How do we do this? How do we grow in joy, prayerfulness, and giving thanks? By keeping our mind on the goodness and beauty of God.
But how do we keep our mind on God? By cultivating a heart habit of thankfulness. How do we do that? By getting the word of God embedded 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 offered 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.”
Try it now. Breathe in deep as you pray, “Thank you!” Then breathe out as you pray, “Lord.” Repeating this is re-vitalizing and it renews our minds and hearts by appreciating God’s loving presence.
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 Father God and submission to his will (or abandoning outcomes to him) are the first two petitions of the Lord’s Prayer.
By repeating this prayer over and over in blocks of solitude I developed a new habit. (Training with spiritual disciplines helps us to grow in godliness, 1 Timothy 4:7.)
For instance, I’ve used this Breath Prayer while jogging long distances, even when I’m tired. Eventually, I found that even when I had not consciously intended to pray this I found myself breathing, “Thank you… Lord.”
What a blessing this has been! It’s just a phrase of Scripture. Just three syllables. Just a breath. Just a smile to God. But it lifts my attitude and helps me to be more attentive and caring to other people. Practice it and you’ll see for yourself.
(Sometimes I pray, “Thank you… Jesus”, “Thank you… Father”, “Thank you… Holy Spirit”, or I use another of the Lord’s names.)
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 when times are good, but even in difficult times. Amen.
More Breath Prayers
To pray a short verse or paraphrase of Scripture as a Breath Prayer is refreshing and empowering. It helps you learn to practice God’s presence all day and stay in tune with the peace of Christ. I’ve selected key verses of Scripture and developed step-by-step instructions for meditation, breathing rhythms, and prayer in “Breath Prayer Guides.”
It’s not always easy to give thanks, especially if we are going through tragedies, trials, and conflict. Join Bill and Kristi on this episode of Soul Talks as they share on how we can find the goodness of the Lord in the midst of life’s challenges and unwanted circumstances.