Yesterday, our elder Cal shared the first message in our series on the Power of Thanksgiving. You can listen to the message here. Most people aren’t naturally thankful. It is a learned mindset. But when we look at Scripture, we find a lot of guidance toward habitual thankfulness. Today, I’d like to talk about some practical things we can do to become more thankful. In Christian circles, we may call this “Thanksgiving Prayers.” Secularists who have discovered the value of thankfulness have referred to it as “Thankfulness Exercises.” Later in this series, I’ll be reflecting on specific ways Thankfulness can empower our lives. Here, I want to focus on three How-To’s of Thanksgiving. 1. Morning Routines. 2. In Petitionary Prayers. 3. Telling Others
1. Start a Morning Routine of Thankfulness Journaling
As creatures of habit, it is sometimes difficult to begin new routines. This is especially true as we get older. I’ll be 40 in less than six months. One thing I’ve noticed is my movement away from new routines. Change is hard for me. Constant change is a huge stressor. It creates a sense of immensity to life that feels overwhelming. If you’re my age or older, this point may be a bit more challenging for you, as it requires modifying your already set routine. For those of you in your mid-Thirties and lower, this may go a bit more smoothly. What I’m talking about is creating a morning routine of journaling what you are thankful for.
Paul urges the church at Philippi to pray with thankfulness. Journaling thankfulness is a way of fulfilling this. When we set down to write out what we are thankful for, we are training our minds to see the goodness of God in the daily grind. It turns our attention to His work in our lives. By focusing on thankful journaling, we can also experience a reduction in stress and worry. This is because we are viewing our lives through a lens of the good we do have, not the good we wish we had.
Today, we can do to start living a more thankful life. Documenting things we are thankful for creates mental habits of looking for the good in life. This diverts us from focusing on negatives or voids we “think” we have. Thankfulness is the key to a positive view of life. It is also the key to seeing God’s hand in our daily experiences.
2. Find One Related Thing of Thankfulness During Petitionary Prayers
For years, when I thought of prayer, what came to mind was asking for things. I have since learned this is called “Petitionary Prayer.” I thought that was all prayer consisted of. Now I’ve come to learn that there are a lot of ways to pray. Some examples include: forgiveness prayers, confession prayers, repentance prayers, petitionary prayers, thankfulness prayers, scripture prayers, and more. I’d still think that many of us focus a fair amount on petitionary prayers. And that’s OK.
If we find that petitionary prayers are the workhorse of our prayer lives, we can still be thankful. Petitionary prayers tend to focus on something that’s either lacking or gone awry. But we can continue to live a thankful life by making a slight modification to our petitionary prayers. We can make an effort to engage in thanksgiving prayer at the end of our petitions. That way, it allows us to focus on the Lord’s goodness and less on the trial before us.
How do I recommend doing this? When we engage in petitionary prayer, make sure we finish it up with a thanksgiving prayer related to the subject. I.e. If I’m praying for a family member’s healing, I can also thank the Lord for other healings that or another family member has experienced. If I’m praying for wisdom in addressing conflict with a fellow church member, I can end the prayer thanking God for who they are and the value they bring to the church body and myself. Adding thankfulness to petitionary prayers allows us to see things from a Christ-centered perspective.
3. Regularly Tell a Loved-One or Friend Something You’re Thankful For
Many of us take loved-ones and friends for granted. We just assume they will continue doing what they do to be good friends and loved-ones. What we don’t tend to understand is their need for encouragement and affirmation. These are not weaknesses in people. They are a necessary part of their well-being and sense of value. So verbalizing things we are thankful for in them is a small yet profound way to be Jesus to them. We express their intrinsic value and what they mean to us personally.
Telling someone why you’re thankful for them also serves us on a personal level. Articulating traits we are thankful for in others helps us to see them in the best light. It helps us to see them more how Jesus sees them. It also strengthens the relational bond. It helps people feel valued and respected. When we regularly tell people why we are thankful for them, we are training our minds to be more appreciative of what people bring to relationships. We see how enriched we are by them.
This is a transformative habit I think all Christians should develop. I believe a lot of unnecessary conflict and vain imaginations would be abolished if we would find the things in other we are thankful for. That doesn’t mean all conflict will vanish, we’re still human. What it does mean is that the remaining conflicts will be approached with love and with the other person’s well-being in mind. Why not start telling people why you’re thankful for them regularly?
In the end, these three simple modifications to our prayer life and personal relationships have the potential to completely alter the way we think. It can help us see more life and light in our world. It makes us more mindful of the things of God. It shows us how to love others more deeply. As psychologist Carl Rogers says it, “Unconditional Positive Regard.” We strive to see the best in others. By doing so, we can get a glimpse of God’s plan in their lives and can pray into its fulfillment. All the while, we ourselves are being transformed more into the image of Christ. We will operate from a purer love with a more Christ-like perspective in people.
Thanks for reading today’s Pastor Blog. I hope you can take these tools to better host our Lord’s
Presence. Love. Power.
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