Do you ever find yourself at a loss for words when giving thanks to someone? Does it feel empty, shallow, or inauthentic?
I suspect we’ve all been there. Sometimes it’s challenging to find the right way to express thanks. Other times we know we’re going through the motions. Some of us are better actors than others.
How does that work with God? He knows our every thought, motive, and intention. Does he accept our prayers of thanks when our motives are mixed? What does he think when he observes that we’re only saying prayers of thanksgiving so we can get to what we want to ask?
If you’re a parent, you’ve seen your kids do it. They come into the kitchen with smiles and words of praise, and then they ask for the forbidden cookie or treat. So cute.
If you’re in business, you’ve seen the shoddy salesman who tries to butter you up before they ask for the sale. Not so cute.
God must laugh. Why do we think we can get away with this?
Here’s the deal. Saying the right words will eventually move from your conscious to your subconscious brain. Said another way, becoming grateful is in part a skill that must be learned. It starts with words and actions before it becomes part of who we are.
4 Ways to Give Thanks to God
Here are four ways we can regularly give thanks to God. Go to this post for more inspiration.
#1: Obey God’s commands
I’m starting with the least obvious. Jesus said that if we love God we will obey his commands (John 14:15). Doing what someone else wants (without asking or complaining) is a powerful way to show thankfulness. How much more when we do it for God.
#2: Give God offerings
Yes, God does command us to give him offerings. When it comes from the heart and not just out of duty, it’s a dynamic form of worship and appreciation. I’ve learned that the tithe can start to feel like just another bill I pay. But when I remember everything belongs to God, I can bring my tithes and offerings, my above and beyond gifts, out of thankfulness for all God has done.
#3: Verbally thank him in prayer
Okay, we’ve gone from the least obvious to the most obvious. Of course, we should tell God that we’re thankful with our words. What if we spent enough time to describe what we’re thankful for and why we’re thankful? For example, “God thank you for answering my prayers to heal my wrist by sending Dr. Davis, Jonny, Polly, Royce, Philippe, and Cristina to provide healing and wisdom. It makes me feel so loved that you would orchestrate the lives and minds of all these people to help me. Thank you.”
#4: Sing songs of thanksgiving
In 1 Chronicles 23:5, we see that David ordered there to be 4,000 musicians who were organized to continuously lift songs of thanksgiving and praise to God. Music allows us to access the emotional message of words in a way that merely speaking them doesn’t always do. Even if you don’t consider yourself a singer or musician, I encourage you to sing songs of thanksgiving to God. Once you know the music, allow the song to guide your mind and heart to deeper places of thankfulness.
When we were first teaching our children to write thank you cards, I remember a familiar pattern with each of them. The first version of the card would say, “Thank you for the Christmas gift.” We instructed them to rewrite it to be specific about the gift. The second version inevitably left out the “why.” So we asked our children to thank them specifically for the gift and then to tell them why they liked it. This is a good habit in our prayers and in our words with others. Here’s another example:
“Thank you for giving me the cool red skateboard for Christmas. I already enjoy riding it with my friends and I’m now the fastest kid in my class. It makes me feel amazing.–Love Jonny”
Today, I challenge you to write a thank you letter to God. Just like when you write a thank you card, just focus on one thing that you’re thankful for. But in this case, provide lots of detail on what you saw God do and how that has impacted you. No one else needs to ever read this, so be open and honest with yourself. Write for at least five minutes or a full page, whichever comes first. Challenge yourself to be descriptive, detailed, and vulnerable.
If you’re a songwriter, or always wanted to try, write a song of thanksgiving based on the letter you just wrote.
Lord, I thank you for the thousands of ways you bless me that I never see. Give me eyes to see just some of those today. Teach me to be more grateful for my salvation and all the ways you’re active in my life. May I demonstrate thankfulness to my family, friends, neighbors, and all those I encounter today. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
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