“Father, I thank you for this day. I thank you for … for …."
Have you ever been there? You know the Lord calls you to thankfulness. Perhaps you’ve adopted a prayer model, such as ACTS (Adoration-Confession-Thanksgiving-Supplication), that forces daily time of thankfulness for God's blessing.
But when you get to the T in prayer, you don’t know what to say.
Or maybe you find yourself saying the same thing every day. You thank the Lord for your day, your house, your spouse, etc. Before too long, though, the words become a rote, repeated, rarely-refreshed expression of thanks.
Or maybe, life is so hard right now, you just don’t find much to thank God for. Perhaps the standard Christian rote items (a day, a house, a spouse, etc.) aren’t even there for you. Other despairs creep in. Thankfulness creeps out.
What hope is there for a rich daily prayerful thankfulness?
Many answers could be given. But I want to reflect on what, for me, has been the most practical guide to daily thankfulness.
Many years ago, as I followed the ACTS model of prayer, I started using the 10 Commandments as a daily grid for confession. This helped to follow the guide of Westminster Confession 15.5 to “repent of particular sins, particularly”.
And then I thought, “If I confess daily sin through 10 Commandments, why not then offer thanksgiving through reflection on 10 particular graces of the day?" Why not, to use the confession’s language, build an intentional plan to thank God for particular graces, particularly?
This pattern of thankfulness is simply an application of belief in James 1:17 – that indeed "every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights." If indeed the Father overflows with gifts, how I can not pause day-by-day and thank him, for, at minimum, 10 particular gifts poured out in that day?
This idea may seem obvious, simple, elementary. But often, it's the simple, elementary patterns of life that shape our perspectives of God, ourselves, and the world.
For me, this intentional pattern has given focus to my times of thankfulness. It has prevented rushing past thankfulness on the way to expressing my burdens to the Lord. It forces a spirit of thankfulness when dealing with the worst or the hardest or the busiest of days. It gives me a vision to see God at work in the ordinary experiences of life.
So, if you are struggling to be thankful today, what it would look like for you to simply recount before the Lord 10 particular graces He has poured out on you within the past day? Your points of thankfulness can be deep and profound: new theological insights, spiritual conversations, transformative times in His Word, etc. They can be simple: reflections on joys of the day, an observation in God's created world, or the blessing of a good meal.
Give yourself to this pattern, and I trust, you'll soon be unable to stop yourself at 10!
Of course, all thankfulness is generated from a heart of gratitude for the work of God in Jesus Christ. I just preached on Sunday on 2 Corinthians 9, which ends with these words: “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” Paul's thanks proceeds from the inexpressible gift of Jesus Christ for sinners (2 Corinthians 8:9).
A heart of gratitude is a gospel gift.
Just as an example, here’s a list of my points of gratitude from a few days back:
1. For a longer-than-usual time to talk with my two sons as they ate breakfast in the morning.
2. For the opportunity to eat lunch and talk with some of our church’s seniors at our “Senior's Luncheon”.
3. For a discussion that enhanced my recognition of the joyful unity we have at the church where I serve.
4. For an hour in the morning devoted to devotions, prayer, and reading at the beautifully wooded playground at the back of our church property.
5. For a meeting with a discipleship group at church that seemed to leave us all refreshed as we shared different particular burdens on our hearts.
6. For some personal study on the book of Romans that enhanced my excitement for a new midweek Bible study on this wonderful book.
7. For the fun of trying and struggling to facilitate bath-time for my four kids.
8. For seeing big progress in two of my kids in their reading, including my 4-year-old being so excited to read a 1-sentence story.
9. For our 10-month old sleeping through the night – after taking a few weeks off from doing that for us!
10. For a meal last night with zucchini from our family garden.
Each of these is a true and rich blessing of our God in heaven.
So, what are you thankful for from the past day? What will you be thankful for from today? I’d love to hear your list. If you happen to see me some day, ask me for my "Top 10" list from the day – and keep me accountable to have one! Indeed, His mercies are new every morning (Lam. 3:22-23).
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