The Practice of Prayer: Why Gratitude Matters

6 min read

Use this guest blog by Brian Heasley to lean into the power of gratitude in prayer and take your prayer life to another level!

“Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee.  As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!” When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him, and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?  Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”

I love this story in Luke 17: 11 – 17 because it paints such a clear picture of God’s heart towards grateful people.

In this passage of text, we read about how, out of the ten lepers that were healed, only one came back to thank Jesus. Not only was he the only one who thanked him, but he was also a Samaritan. At this time, Samaritans and Jews really didn’t like each other. Yet, when this man recognized what Jesus had done for him, he threw himself at Jesus’ feet.

The Samaritan stopped to show Jesus his gratitude; he paused his plans to thank the Savior.

What a powerful lesson for us today!

Take A Moment To Be Grateful

Right now, wherever you are, take a moment to stop and look around at all the wonder that surrounds you. Did you know that wonder leads us to worship? And worship is the life-giving gift that waters our prayer life and helps it to grow?

A prayer life without worship becomes dry and religious, stagnant and even ungrateful. In this strange story, we see nine people who were too busy to worship the one who had healed them. But we also see the one person who wasn’t. The one who chose to drench his life in prayers of praise, thanking Jesus for the miracle he had given him.

I want to challenge us to become like this man in our own lives!

Bring your praise and your worship to his feet and position your heart in a posture of gratitude. If we want to grow in the practice of prayer, we need to learn how to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. So, let’s get started!

Gratitude As An Antidote to Consumerism

We live in a culture that thrives on consumerism. We want, we need, we just have to have the next thing.

However, a culture of consumerism is always going to push us to focus on what we don’t have instead of helping us to cultivate a prayerful gratitude for all the things we do have.

I believe that the only way to break this consumerist culture is to practice the art of regular thanksgiving, taking in all the wonders of the world around us and allowing them to inspire our worship towards our Father in heaven.

In Luke’s gospel we read about how the healed leper threw himself at the feet of Jesus. For me this reminds me of when we fall to our knees in worship, overwhelmed by the presence of God and desperate to pour out our praise before him. When the leper fell at Jesus’ feet, it was a conscious act. He did not faint or collapse against his will, but he decided that there was no other posture to show his gratitude other than falling before Jesus in total worship and surrender. He had an attitude of gratitude that permeated his prayer life as a physical act of thanks.

In the same way, when we make a conscious decision to thank God for all that he has done for us, we find ourselves falling at his feet, overwhelmed with gratitude for his good and perfect ways. 

Gratitude In The Small Things

However, gratitude isn’t just about these grand physical gestures. Gratitude can be cultivated in the little things too.

Perhaps it’s singing songs of worship at the top of your lungs as you shower? Or maybe it’s taking note of the beauty of God’s creation around you as you walk to work. Great or small, gratitude is a conscious practice that we exercise each day.

You might be wondering, but what happens when life is really tough? Well, what if I told you that the expression of gratitude does not disqualify our worries or concerns, but that it helps us to keep our eyes on Jesus even in the thick of them?

I love to look at the Psalms when I feel discouraged by my circumstances. The Psalms are not simply prayers of thankfulness and praise, but they are filled with examples of working through trials and overcoming great obstacles. The Psalms give us a beautiful example of the practice of gratitude in the mess of life. I really love Psalm 136:1. It says, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever.

The word love in this passage comes from the ancient Hebrew word Hesed. Hesed has an incredibly deep and beautiful meaning. It means that this love the Psalmist is speaking about is a ‘free flowing love that knows no bounds’. Isn’t that amazing? No matter what is going on in your life today, if there is one thing that you can give thanks for it’s that God has given you a free-flowing love that knows no bounds!

Integrating Gratitude Into Our Prayer Life

As we engage in the practise of prayer we must remember to practise gratitude too.

We must make the conscious effort to thank our Lord on a daily basis.

We must worship him for the wonders that we find in humanity. For the small but meaningful surprises he blesses us with each day. Remember to thank him for the simple things that better our lives, for the food on our plates, for the water in our taps. Even for the electricity in our homes, for the friends we know, for the family we have, for the people we have loved, for the people we have lost.

If we integrate this attitude of heartfelt gratitude into our prayer lives, our perspective on life will change. Our priorities will re-order, and we will know and experience the great joy of the Lord.

So today, why not pick up the phone and call someone to simply say thanks for who they are. Show them your gratitude and watch how it not only impacts them, but how it impacts you too.

Commit to find ways to show your thankfulness. Whether it’s in the conversations you have with friends, the things you share online or the quiet moments in your garden of prayer, make gratitude a regular practice in your prayers. Then watch how beautifully He transforms your life as you do”

Brian Heasley is the International Prayer Director for 24-7 Prayer, and he also works at Lambeth Palace as International Ecumenical Lead for Thy Kingdom Come.

Before this, Brian and his wife Tracy pioneered the work of 24-7 Prayer in Ibiza, Spain, where they developed rhythms of prayer and mission. Brian’s book, Gatecrashing, tells the story of 24-7 Prayer in Ibiza. Brian is originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and now lives in England. Brian and Tracy have two adult sons.

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