Sometimes we say thank-you too quickly, don’t you think? What I mean is, we say thank-you blithely, almost offhandedly. We say it without considering what thank-you signifies.
This is especially true in prayer. We’re supposed to be grateful to God, right? A good Christian (or good Muslim, or good any-person-of-faith) cultivates gratitude. It’s a positive way to go through life. It’s also a nice thing to do. And there’s a touch of ancient religious thought at work here—that is, to appease the mighty god whose mercy we need, to be sure and give this god plenty of praise and thanks, because gods like that sort of thing; it keeps them from getting cranky.
But God is not interested in duty-bound thanksgiving. God is interested in our noticing what’s happening in life, day by day and moment by moment. God is interested in our recognizing gifts for what they are rather than getting distracted by the gifts we don’t happen to have right now.
Gratitude is a form of paying attention. It’s also a form of engagement with the Divine. And true engagement must be honest and at least somewhat thoughtful. So gratitude—the kind that forms us into gracious, faithful people—learns how to identify gifts, name them, and express appreciation for them.
So before you thank God in your prayers this week, try to identify precisely what you have noticed as gifts. Name them one by one, as the old hymn instructs. Then say thank you.