In the series of articles about prayer that I am currently working through, we have looked at what Father Eamon Tobin described in 13 Powerful Ways to Pray as the four keys of effective prayer. From here, I would like to muse over what Father describes as the ways to pray.
The first one, as described by Father Tobin, is the Prayer of Thanksgiving. Back in October, I conducted a teacher retreat for the York Deanery on the topic of gratitude. Did you ever realize that there is a distinct difference between thanksgiving and gratitude, even though we use the words interchangeably? Gratitude is a virtue that calls us to rejoice in what is. It is expressed in joy. This is such an important virtue that the Roman lawyer and statesman, Cicero, declared, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all other virtues.”
Gratitude is different from thankfulness. According to Webster, (www.merriam-webster.com) thankfulness is a habitual automatic response that often happens in a short moment and is often rooted within feelings. It is often the first step in being truly thank-full. Gratitude, on the other hand, denotes a lifestyle that involves the heart. It not only involves feelings but also a decision of action, a willingness to sacrifice for another.
So, in my mind, living a lifestyle of gratitude includes one of thankfulness as well. But, what does that look like? Father Tobin declares, “In the prayer of thanksgiving, we give gratitude to God for his loving activity in creation, in the lives of others, and in our own lives. … Developing a grateful heart toward God is beneficial to our mental and spiritual well-being.” 1
For me, it goes a bit deeper than that because it welcomes a sense of awe into life. That awe gives us a space to welcome the sacred into our hearts. It can give us true freedom since it brings about humility and reverence for others.
This attitude is a stepping stone toward being grateful to God. Reflect on what the amazing gifts of the Incarnation, the Eucharist, His death and resurrection, the Holy Spirit mean to every person that ever came into existence. Without some sense of gratitude to God, a form of spiritual amnesia can creep over our souls. The result? The attitude, “I got it together. I can do it all by myself.” Doesn’t this echo in a small way the sin of our first parents when they hankered to be like God?
But how does one actually pray their thanksgiving? Father Tobin gives us four examples: 2
- The Mass is the great prayer of thanksgiving for Catholic Christians. The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving.” We can attend a weekday Mass and use it as our prayer of thanksgiving for some particular blessing in our lives.
- We can use the five decades of the Rosary to give thanks to God for five specific blessings in our lives. It can’t be emphasized enough how important it is to actually name what we see are the blessings in our lives.
- We can give thanks by share our blessings with others.
- We can compose and pray our own personal litany of thanksgiving.
Let us constantly bow our heads in thanks for a God that loves us infinitely!
1Tobin, Eamon. 13 Powerful Ways to Pray. Beacon Publishing, 2016. Pg. 71.
2 Eamon, pg. 75.
By Sister Geralyn Schmidt, The Catholic Witness