In the fall, I received a beautiful white book of poetry by the poet Mary Oliver. In amongst the pages I was captivated by these words in a poem called “Prayer”:
It doesn’t have to be
the blue iris,
it could be
weeds in a vacant lot,
or a few
small stones; just
pay attention, then patch
a few words together
and don’t try
to make them elaborate,
a contest but the doorway
into thanks, and a
silence in which
another voice may speak.
Ms Oliver is onto something powerful here in her thoughts on prayer. Our God is constantly giving us gifts and it is a necessary spiritual practice to attune our eyes to see them. The beauty of blue iris or the common weed or stone, all a gift. Now life is not all roses, or irises, and the real treasure of gratitude comes when we are facing the “vacant lot” of life. Yet, I believe there is always a something, if not a wealth of things, to express gratitude for. And who but God deserves this thanks?
"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!" - Psalm 118:1
If you ever feel stumped by the words to use, know that prayer is far less about the right words than the right heart. But still the thankful words poured from a thankful heart are important! You can begin this practice with a prayer of gratitude that is as simple as “Hi God. Thank you for that.” Our ability to speak words of gratitude create the doorway into a thankful heart space. A thankful heart space becomes a peaceful and contented heart. Try it for yourself!
"It is good to give thanks to the Lord" - Psalm 92:1
When I keep the everyday goodness of God forefront, it fills me with wonder and joy. All my senses are awake: what is God up to next? It turns my eyes towards God, ready to see (and respond to) God at work in the space around me. Anticipating goodness, my heart is poised to hear from God. I love that the above poem on prayer ends with thoughts on listening, which is the integral other half of communication with God.
"I give you thanks, O Lord, with all my heart" – Psalm 138:1
Gratitude is also all tied up together with honour and humility. I sense my humble place in the grand scheme of things when I recognize the kindnesses of God towards me. I give honour where it is due, to the Creator.
"Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness. Let the whole world know what he has done" - Psalm 105:1
So today, be paying attention. What common things and what less-common things, can you find to create the “doorway into thanks”? Perhaps consider beginning a gratitude list or journal. How many things could you pause to notice and be grateful for this day? Speak them out to God. He’s bending down low to listen.
"We thank you, O God! We give thanks because…" - Psalm 75:1
PRAYER FOCUS: Take a minute to take inventory of the all the things that you're thankful for. Take time to thank God for all these things!