Last week at a Right on Mission team meeting, I was asked to read a prayer that I wrote several years ago. I generally include the prayer in some of my classes, but haven’t really revisited it in a while. As I read it in the meeting, I began to realize just how little time I take to be thankful. Life is fast-paced. There is always more to do and not quite enough time to do it. I fight for time to spend on other things (like writing blog posts), but I’ve only recently begun to fight for that same kind of time for prayer.
The reality is that I am grateful. God has given me far more than I deserve and, often, provided me with gifts that I never knew I wanted (or needed). Most of the time, however, I take God and his gifts for granted…as if the people and opportunities will always be there. When I take God and what he has given for granted, I’m quite sure that it impacts the people in my life.
Living with a less-than thankful disposition allows my ambition to go into overdrive pursuing the next “big thing.” When that happens, I’d rather be “in my own head” than “in the moment” with the blessings God has placed around me. I get too caught up in petty frustrations and forget to look around for the gifts God is putting in my path. How many opportunities have I missed because I was too busy being discontent to see what God was offering to do for me and through me?
Ultimately, I don’t dwell on those missed opportunities…but I don’t exactly want to keep missing them either. So, what am I going to do to change my identity from “the guy whose lack of gratitude makes him less content and more ambitious and selfish” to “the guy who embraces the good, the bad, and the ugly with a heart full of thanksgiving and praise of God?”
First, I’m going to start by praying the prayer of gratitude below every day from now until the end of the year. Last December I committed to doing an average of 100 burpees per day for 30 days, so I think reading and reflecting on a prayer is pretty doable.
Second, I’m also going to start asking myself new questions. Jennifer Berger talks about asking different questions in her book Simple Habits for Complex Times. The general concept is that our day-to-day actions are really answers to implicit questions we are asking ourselves (but may not know we are asking).
For example, rather than asking, “why is this person keeping me from the task I want/need to complete,” I am going to being asking myself “what blessing is God seeking to provide me through this interaction?” Instead of asking, “how can I get out of this situation,” I am going to ask, “how can I convey who God is in this situation.” As opposed to asking, “how can I make this work,” I am going to be asking myself “what does it look like for me to be faithful in this situation?”
It may seem too simple, but even in the limited time I’ve been trying to reframe by asking different questions, I’m beginning to see the potential. The more theologically charged my internal “Q and A,” the more I am starting to cultivate a theological perspective on the various situations in which I find myself.
Finally, I’m going to start expressing my gratitude to those around me. The more that I can express my gratitude in a not-so-sappy-that-it-becomes-fake-and-ridiculous sort of way the more I believe I actually start to become a person who is actually thankful.
A Prayer of Gratitude
Lord, as I participate in the all-too-consuming activities that require my attention today, I pray that I would not lose sight of You.
Give me this day a heart of gratitude.
Give me a heart of gratitude which looks beyond my appreciation
Give me a heart of gratitude which is ever and always
thankful for the Giver
thankful for the One who has provided
thankful for the One who, unlike His gifts, will never fade away.
Give me a heart of gratitude which refuses
to surrender to frivolous complaint,
to seek more than you have given,
to succumb to the annoyances and frustrations of this world.
Give me a heart of gratitude which is so filled with thanksgiving that worry and concern have no room.
Give me a heart of gratitude which remembers you as the present Giver who is my refuge and my portion.
Give me a heart of gratitude which cries out thanksgiving and praise even in the midst of anguish, pain, and frustration.
Give me a heart of gratitude which is capable of love, hope, and peace despite the tensions, hurts, and foolishness of this world.
Give me a heart of gratitude which is ever and always Yours. Amen.