Now that you know Gratitude as the Memory of your heart, I am going to ask you to take that memory, that gratitude, and see it as a form of prayer. I invite you to listen to another Brother David gratitude experience. This one is special because it was created by Louie Swartzberg who is famous for his time-lapsed photography. It begins with a little child teaching us how powerful imagination is and then moves to Brother David opening our eyes to the wonder of God’s beauty in creation and in each of us. Open your heart in awe and gratitude as you experience this video — that will be your prayer. (Logistics issue: If you want to see this video full screen move your cursor over the bottom of the video and you’ll see a menu bar open. Between the words HD and Vimeo you’ll see a little square with 4 arrows each pointing outward, click on that icon and you’ll be full screen. To return to the normal screen size to see the rest of the lesson move your cursor to the same area and click the same icon and you’ll be back to normal size again.)
Prayer is an interesting concept in and of itself. We all have different ideas of what prayer is. I like Meister Eckhart’s view that if the only prayer we ever said in our life was “thank you”, that would be enough. Each of us view prayer in a different way depending on our family traditions, our faith, our personal experiences with God, and more. But I think the most important element is not so much the words we use or the ritual we follow but what’s really in our heart as we pray and that is so dependent on how we view God and our relationship with God.
Keep it Simple…
I think prayer is meant to be simple. I love the story about the Hasidic Jew who comes home inebriated (unlikely to ever be true) and wants to say his prayers but can’t find his prayer book. He looks and looks and still can’t find it and then he sits down and begins to say the alphabet over and over and tells God you put the letters in the right order for my evening prayer. I always delight in that story because I think there is a truth hidden there that what is important is not the words I use but the heart with which I say them.
Let it overflow from your heart…
In my Franciscan heart I believe that God overflows with extravagant love for each and every one of us and that all is gift from this extravagant God who everyday surprises us with his love. Sometimes I see it in the people I interact with, sometimes I see it in the sunrise and sometimes I see it simply in the peace I feel when I take the time to sit quietly by myself remembering God’s goodness and trusting in God’s love. The most powerful prayers are those prayed in gratitude with the full awareness of a beloved child of God, prayers prayed with a deep sense that God wants to help us, guide us, support us, delight us, and love us unconditionally. St. Francis of Assisi in his Earlier Rule has a simple and exquisite overflowing prayer of gratitude: the Earlier Rule In it he pours his heart out in gratitude and encourages his followers to do the same. This is a man in love with his God and he invites us to the same level of gratitude.
Make sure it’s personal..
Your prayer style is very personal, and all styles are valid. Use whatever approach and tradition you prefer in expressing your gratitude and know that God who is love, loves you completely and unconditionally, as you are, faults and all. I think we most imitate God when we are grateful. God who created us in love and gives us free will is grateful for all that we are. I love the Genesis reflection on creation where the writer keeps repeating “And God saw that it was good” and finally the writer says “God saw that it was VERY good“. You and I are good — VERY GOOD — according to our God
Gratefulness is one of the most divine qualities we have within us. To feel appreciation is to value and cherish the life we have been given by God. The highest form of prayer is to simply give thanks to the Lord for the life we have been given. We take so much for granted in life, and when we do, we fail to see the miracle and beauty of life all around us. The great thing about gratefulness is that it actually attracts to us more reasons to be grateful and appreciative in life. Gratefulness keeps us in the present moment. Each moment is a blessing, and a surprise because when you truly live in the present moment, you are one with God. Do everything with an attitude of gratitude and your entire life will become a prayer, a song, a dance, a ritual of love if you simply let your heart be who he/she really wants it to be. I love Mary Oliver’s Poem Wild Geese: Wild Geese . I love it because it reminds us that we simply have to be fully ourselves and that’s really all God asks of us, to love what he created within us, to cherish the goodness and not to make it so difficult on ourselves, not to diminish ourselves. Whoever we are; we are a part of the family of God. In addition to the link to the poem above I also offer this illustrated reading by Mary Oliver herself:
Believe it with your whole heart…
Expressing gratefulness, by its very nature, is an expression of faith and trust and love. It is a mode of surrender and release. It’s acknowledging that others have gifted us. It recognizes how interconnected we really are, one family in God. Gratitude transcends neediness and separateness. Complaining, whining, moaning and lamenting highlights only our separateness. It is exhausting because it uses up our life energy. Complaining about our distress creates more distress, avoiding pain creates more pain, it nurtures our aloneness and makes us more lonely. But we express the opposite when we express gratefulness. We recognize our neediness our dependence on one another and on our God. With gratitude we acknowledge that all we need, God gives us. God knows our needs before we even speak them. All is given to us. All is gift. It acknowledges our oneness with the Creator. We transcend separateness every time we speak gratitude. And since it brings us together with one another, with the goodness and the beauty of creation and with our God, it moves us closer in oneness, in community, more and more. Now can you see why I think gratitude is the highest form of prayer?
I would like to conclude this session with a song entitled A Love Song to the World. It is an invitation to see all as blessing. It is a joyful song because you take the time to look into the eyes of others as they sing. I think it’s a healing song that helps us recognize ourselves as a part of this community of God’s family. It brings joy and happiness and peace to me whenever I hear it. Make sure you stay to the very last second….the voices at the end are equally as important as the ones in the beginning. All that I am, all that I see, all that I’ve been and all that I’ll ever be is a blessing, so amazing and I’m grateful for it all.
Some optional homework to consider:
(Again, I know I can only cover so much in a session before I overwhelm or bore you so I put little practices or segments into the week. They are important because they are all a part of helping you develop that Attitude of Gratitude. But there is nothing magical about the sequencing. Life may make it impossible to do all of them or one may really appeal to you and the others not touch you at all so just let happen what happens. It is an offering and that’s all.)
Day 2 of Week 2:
In addition to writing down three things in your gratitude journal, I encourage you to write a prayer in your journal today. A prayer that is uniquely yours. Perhaps it won’t have words that you can put in a journal and that’s alright. Perhaps you want to chant it or perhaps you want to dance it or perhaps you just want to sit and be quiet — whatever it is you choose as your prayer, it is okay; it is prayer! Maybe you even want to just sit and say the alphabet. Perhaps it’s simply sitting with a glass of wine and a lit candle telling God about your day and at the end simply saying thank you. Maybe it’s simply sitting with a cup of tea and saying nothing but knowing inside you have a grateful heart. If you need some ideas here’s a link to a few Prayers of gratitude
Day 3 of week 2:
I suggest you might want to read this essay I found it powerful: The most beautiful gratitude prayer by Jonathan Sacks. You have to keep clicking NEXT to get through the four panels but it’s worth it. I invite you to journal about this prayer. Stay focused on that gratitude journal. It takes a month to develop a habit.
Day 4 of week 2
Today is the Jewish Sabbath. There is a beautiful word the Jewish people use around Passover; it is Dayenu – In essence the song they sing talks about God’s overwhelming love. They begin by saying it would have been enough had you freed us from slavery and they then bring up each step in their salvation history, recognizing that God keeps giving. I encourage you to read the Dayenu. This site gives you an article that draws the Jewish and the Christian faith together. Praying this prayer is beautiful but putting your own story of how God keeps giving to you will add another way to say thank you and internalize that attitude of gratitude. The Dayenu Don’t forget your gratitude journal.
Day 5 of week 2
Since it’ Sunday you might have more time to spend with your gratitude journal. Just going back over last week’s journal may be the best prayer you can ever had. But don’t just mention something you’re grateful for, spend time trying to fully understand why you are so grateful for it and how you might best spend time saying thank you. Also on this Sunday perhaps you might want to consider a Morning Prayer of Surrender and Trust. The one I’ve chosen is from a Karen Drucker’s music.
Day 6 of week 2
This is a nine minute TED talk about a young man’s experience with gratitude. Perhaps it will inspire you to commit to a certain number of days of gratitude and give you some idea about how seriously you could take gratitude and what the implications of that could be.
Day 7 of week 2
How can you best express your love today? How do people show you gratitude by their love? Get that journal out!
And here’s something to inspire you.
I hope you found something helpful in this Week 2 sharing. I’ll get in touch next Wednesday, February 15, 2017 with Lesson 3. I am grateful for your love and patience as we march through this month of gratitude. You inspire me!