By Ben Simpson
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Anne Lamott wrote there are three essential kinds of prayer: “Help!” “Thanks!” and “Wow!”
We cry for help when we are in crisis and express awe when overcome by wonder, but gratitude is mainly a habit. Thanksgiving is a practice requiring attention and noticing. Gifts must be recognized as unmerited and the giver as generous. Thanks is something you say when someone brings you a bowl of cereal or gives you a car. Or, it is something you should say.
In Luke 17:11-19 we are told a story of ten lepers, men afflicted by a skin disease. Jesus enters a village and the men cry out, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” The lepers kept their distance, knowing Jesus was a holy man. But they yelled with a loud voice. Jesus’ reputation as a healer had preceded him.
Jesus saw them and instructed the lepers to go and show themselves to the priest. They took Jesus at his word and were on their way, and as they went they were healed.
One of the lepers, seeing he had been healed, turned back to find Jesus and began praising God in a loud voice. Luke 17:16 says the man, “threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.” Saint Teresa of Avila wrote, “If souls are humble they will be moved to give thanks.”
Jesus asks about the other nine and expresses amazement that the one who returned to thank him was a foreigner. Remember, the Samaritan also praised God as he returned to Jesus, and he thanked him. “Help!” “Thanks!” “Wow!” Jesus told the Samaritan that his faith had made him well. The Samaritan returned to Jesus, humbled by the gift he had received, and recognized the giver.
In Philippians 4:4-7, Paul reminds us to present our requests to God while always rejoicing, putting aside our anxiety and instead to always pray, offering thanksgiving. We are to receive a deep peace that transcends human understanding, being fully confident that the Lord is near, guarding our hearts and minds.
Prayer is an act of the humble soul, and an outgrowth of humility is gratitude. But as we said above, thanksgiving is a practice requiring attention and noticing. We must pay attention to God. We must learn to see gifts as they are presented. We must notice, and when we notice we must remember the source of every good thing and say thanks. Morning coffee. Good conversation. The sunrise. Another breath. Grandchildren. Laughter. When “wow” moments come, rather than continuing on our way, we must stop like the Samaritan, offer praise, and say thanks. Life contains more “wows” than you might think, for those with eyes to see.
Slow down today. Humble your heart. Give thanks to God.
Count your blessings. Make a list, numbered one to ten. Identify good things you are thankful for. Lift those things to God in prayer.
Father, I owe you thanks for the gift of life, the beauty of your creation, the wonder of grace, and the steadfastness of your love. Help me to always rejoice because of what you have done in Jesus Christ and to give thanks for your many blessings. You are good. Amen.
Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ® NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2014 by Biblica, Inc.®. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.