While recently considering the many types of prayer we can use when talking to God, I recalled a conversation I had last fall with a priest. The topic was envy, and my desire to avoid it. In response, this priest recommended I pray a decade of the rosary and, before each bead, think of something for which I was grateful.
I remembered this last week as I sat in the depths of Ignatian-focused prayer. Those who have experienced Ignatian spirituality know that, occasionally, God or the Holy Spirit will settle a little bit of light and understanding into your prayer time.
Out of this prayer time came the thought that gratitude is its own prayer.
Why is Gratitude a Form of Prayer?
When we pray to God out of pure thankfulness, we are acknowledging Him as Creator and, in that sense, we are worshiping Him. It is like St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of Brother Sun and Sister Moon, which opens, “Most high, all-powerful, all-good Lord, All praise is yours, all glory, all honor, all blessings.” When you thank God for His movement in your life, you are not far removed from praising him. A “thank you” to our Heavenly Father unites us to Him: creation worshiping its Creator in loving gratitude. It is our most basic offering, the simplest way to unite your will to His including – and perhaps especially – when His will is unclear.
How Can I Prayerfully Practice Gratitude in My Daily Life?
If you desire to practice gratitude in a prayerful way, begin small (and remember that God is in all things). A simple place to start is, “God, I am grateful for my job and family.” Before moving on, sit with that feeling of thankfulness for a few moments. Consider each individual family member; think deeply on how you spend your time at work and notice how each moment of your day is a gift from God.
Eventually you can move on to something more personal, acknowledging the gifts God has given you in a non-material sense. Have you ever thanked God for making you the way you are? “God, thank you for the gift of being outgoing, because it makes it easier to make friends.” Seriously! You could substitute any number of words there: thank you for making me someone who cares about the environment, someone who is a great runner, full of ambition, always on time, has great luck with parking spots. Each and every little thing that makes you you is a gift from God, and believe me, he knows those parts of you better than you do. He knows parts of you that you don’t even know!
Eventually, as you move through praying actively in gratitude and acknowledgement for the things, people, and circumstances of your life, you can simply pray, “Thank you.” Thank you, God, for being in all things, for creating this world, and for placing me in it here and now, exactly where I belong. It is amazing how quickly our blessings, large and small, add up – way more than fit in a decade of the rosary.
What Happens When Thankfulness Becomes My Prayer?
I can share from my own experience: lately everything looks different, perhaps brighter. I am noticing things I never have before, or which never caught my eye, whether that is a planter full of tiny flowers or the pattern on the pavement.
This is because when you begin practicing gratitude for more things in your life, inevitably you cannot help but become full of awe for everything God has created. More than that, you gain a sense of awareness of God’s presence in all that is around you, and how everything is, truly, connected.
Give It a Try
If you struggle with prayer, this notion of gratitude as its own form of prayer is especially applicable. Some days, the best we can do is roll out of bed and think, “Thank you, God, for letting me see another day,” and never give Him another glance. It is not beautiful or poetic, and yet how delighted God is to hear from you! It is one small, yet important step toward being with God, acknowledging His presence in your life, and asking for a little more closeness to Him. Our gratitude is enough for God, and it opens to the doors to a richer inner life.