Gratitude and the Spiritual Life
“If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.”
Gratitude is a special memory of the heart and a feeling of being thankful. Gratitude is expressed in two special ways: appreciation and thanksgiving. Appreciation is the recognition of the feelings of gratitude and it is usually on the lips. And thanksgiving is the physical expression or demonstration of gratitude, especially to God. So, thanksgiving is like a compound word of thanks and giving. It is about words (thanks) and actions (giving). The Word of God for the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, reveals to us the importance of gratitude as exemplified by Naaman in the first reading and the leper from the gospel reading.
I have a real life experience to share about the power of gratitude. It is about a friend who was finding life very difficult and meaningless. We got talking and during our encounters, I sensed that he was deficient in gratitude and he had never expressed gratitude to his parents and his father to be specific. So, I suggested that he should make haste to see his parents and his father in particular and express a deep gratitude to him verbally and in writing. Fortunately, he agreed and carried out the gratitude work. He shared with me that his father exclaimed, “Oh my God, I have never received any gratitude from this my son. Thank you Jesus for this breakthrough in my family.” It excited his father to the point of stirring him into his bed room and bringing out for celebration a very old red wine. After the mini celebration, the father asked his son to kneel down for his paternal prayer and blessing. Guess what, a week later, a certain flourishing company the young man had applied twice before and was interviewed but was not given an appointment; called him to hurry and pick up his appointment letter and commence work immediately. We together exclaimed: “Miracles do happen through the power of gratitude!”
Again, a certain widow walked up to me to request for prayer as she was very angry with God. She had been retrenched and her family welfare was threatened. But I suggested to her to begin to be positive about life and God and to be rather thankful according to the teaching of St. Paul, “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1Thess. 5:16-18). Only for this same widow in the course of her prayer of gratitude to be favoured with two new jobs and she had to get back to me for us to discern the will of God for her since she couldn’t accept the two job offers.
The Mental Health Letter In praise of gratitude reports the findings of a leading researcher in the field of positive psychology, Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman at the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Seligman “tested the impact of various positive psychology interventions on 411 people, each compared with a control assignment of writing about early memories. When their week’s assignment was to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness, participants immediately exhibited a huge increase in happiness scores. This impact was greater than that from any other intervention, with benefits lasting for a month.”
In our spiritual life and progress, let us cultivate gratitude by acknowledging the goodness of God we have received and learn to say thank you. “If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough.” We can also expand our gratitude habit by writing a thank you note, letter, and message. We need to also extend our gratitude habit by keeping a gratitude journal, praying in thanksgiving, meditation and counting our blessings.