Today we offer a three-part approach to enlarging our hearts of gratitude.
The first has to do with an inward sentiment. We might call this a “heart feeling” of deep gratitude to God and others for how they continue to bless our lives. The starting point, of course, is within us.
We cultivate in our spirits a desire to be more grateful. This calls for times of reflection and counting our blessings, a requirement often difficult to meet in the busyness of everyday life. Do we not find that thanksgiving takes its starting point with an inward feeling? We could call this inward sentiment the “want to” in the experience of becoming a consistently grateful person.
A second stage might be termed a “Godward” expression. The writer prayed in Psalm 51:10, “Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” The second part of the prayer speaks to having a renewed spirit that sees God behind every good and perfect gift.
Given a renewed heart, the pathway for expressing thanksgiving to God is made up of two primary lanes that often are intermingled — prayer and praise. We choose to include in private and public times of prayer expressions of grateful dependence on our generous Heavenly Father. We also make sure to give thoughtful attention to expressions of praise to Him, both for who He is and what He does. In doing so, we are obeying the admonition of Psalm 100:4: “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him and bless His name.”
Much praise takes the form of verbal expression set to music. Songs of praise give Godward expression to inward gratitude. This takes seriously the truth of Psalm 145:3: “Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised.”
In addition to the practice of prayer and praise, we should maintain a thankful spirit that burns brightly throughout the year, which might be expressed as “outward conduct.” People have sometimes coined the word “thanks-living” to capture the idea. Living out daily gratitude involves an upright life that pleases God and reflects Him consistently in our words and deeds. Words are among indispensable expressions of gratitude, but how we choose to live also is a way of expressing a grateful heart.
A thanksgiving afterglow that extends far beyond Thanksgiving Day may well depend on how well we do with inward sentiment, Godward expression and outward conduct.