Sometimes kids are the best teachers. An innocent bedtime prayer will go something like, “Thank you for Coco (our dog), and for space to run, and legs, and shoes, and sunshine, and that ladybug I found on the leaf, and for the leaf, and all the animals, and . . .” Those meandering bedtime prayers can help me check my attitude because I was often too busy to notice the details, let alone to say thank you.
GRATITUDE. Both the secular world and the Christian world agree (and such agreement is rare!) that gratitude is important.
What is gratitude? The Oxford Languages dictionary defines it as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
So why is gratitude important?
Many scientific studies have evaluated gratitude over the last few decades. You can dive into this research more if it interests you, but they have shown that practicing gratitude improves numerous areas in a person’s life, including (but not limited to): increasing self-esteem, increasing happiness, improving social relationships and support, decreasing depression, and improving physical health.
Psalm 116 is a prayer of thanksgiving. The psalmist pledges his love and loyalty to the Lord and recounts how God saved him from grave circumstances. In response to God’s goodness and faithfulness, the psalmist asks, “How can I repay the Lord for all his acts of kindness to me? I will celebrate my deliverance, and call on the name of the Lord. I will fulfill my vows to the Lord before all his people” (Psalm 116:12–14). We cannot earn or repay God’s gifts in our lives, but we can accept His gifts and show our gratefulness to Him in word and action.
Interestingly, Psalm 116 is one of the Egyptian Hallel psalms (Psalms 113—118). As part of the Jewish tradition, these Psalms were recited during the Passover feast. Both Matthew 26:30 and Mark 14:26 record that Jesus and the disciples sang a hymn after finishing their last supper and first communion together, before going to the Mount of Olives. The hymn is not specified in those verses, but based on the timing relative to the Passover meal and to the Jewish tradition, Psalm 116 would have been recited. Stop and think about this: Jesus was able to express gratitude, even knowing His crucifixion was imminent.
Instructions to be grateful are scattered throughout Scripture. Some days that’s easy but, admittedly, some circumstances or seasons are hard. How can I possibly thank God for a death, a divorce, a natural disaster? I don’t understand the why behind many things that happen so in awful, confusing, tragic moments, I pray Scripture and the truth of who God says He is. For example, Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The Lord is indeed going before you—he will be with you; he will not fail you or abandon you. Do not be afraid or discouraged!” Regardless of whether my circumstances are good or bad, I am grateful that God will be with me. I pray God’s own divine words and proclaim their truth.
I think of gratitude like a muscle; it gets stronger with practice. It has memory and becomes more automatic with repetition. Let’s commit to practicing gratitude like we commit to going to the gym or training for a race.
Let’s pray for grateful hearts and work on being intentionally grateful. We are a chosen and blessed people. God’s grace and mercy are in the miracles—and the details.
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