Develop a Practice of Gratitude
What is the place of gratitude in our lives?
I am finding that if I make no place in my daily life for the actual practice of gratitude, then something vital is missing from each day.
Psalm 100 is identified as a psalm “for giving thanks.” I find in this psalm some helpful counsel for a daily practice of expressing gratitude:
Psalm 100:4 instructs us, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” In other words, do it. Express gratitude.
Joseph Addison remarks, “There is no more pleasing exercise of the mind than gratitude. It is accompanied with such an inward satisfaction that the duty is sufficiently rewarded by the performance.” John Henry Jowett adds, “Life without thankfulness is devoid of love and passion. Hope without thankfulness is lacking in fine perception. Faith without thankfulness lacks strength and fortitude. Every virtue divorced from thankfulness is maimed and limps along the spiritual road.”
Something vital is missing in my life if I don’t make it a habit to express gratitude.
EXPRESS GRATITUDE BOLDLY.
The opening of Psalm 100 instructs us, “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth…come before Him with joyful songs.”
One of my problems in life is that I tend to live in a very constrained manner. This, however, is not a psalm of constraint. This psalm invites me and calls me to unbind my gratitude and allow it to break out in joy-filled shouts and in joyful songs. When I constrain my gratitude my joy is constrained. When gratitude is unbound, then joy can become unbounded.
EXPRESS GRATITUDE KNOWLEDGEABLY.
Verse 3 instructs us, “Know that the Lord is God. It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, the sheep of His pasture.” Verse 5 adds, “For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations.”
These verses provide the content of the psalmist’s thankfulness. They help us to know what he was thankful for and what we can be thankful for. Thornton Wilder points out, “We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” It is important for us to be conscious of what we are thankful for.
To be more deliberately conscious of that for which we are thankful, my wife and I practice the “Examen” of St. Ignatius each night by answering two questions: For what are you most grateful this day? (What brought most life to your soul?) And for what are you least grateful this day? (What most drained life from your soul?)
EXPRESS GRATITUDE PRACTICALLY.
Verse 2 instructs us, “Serve the Lord with thanksgiving.”
If I use only my voice or my words to express gratitude then something is missing. The richest expression of gratitude is when we extend a kindness toward another in keeping with the kindness that has been extended to us! Service unto God and to others is the richest expression of gratitude. Johannes A. Gaertner comments, “To speak gratitude is courteous and pleasant, to enact gratitude is generous and noble, but to live gratitude is to touch Heaven!”