O Lord that lends me life,
Lend me a heart replete with thankfulness.
Meister Eckhart, a 13th-century mystic, eloquently observed, “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” These words describe for me the abundant blessings that can come into our lives when we recognize and acknowledge what God gives to us each day. Through this seemingly simple act, we can increase our awareness of God and, hopefully, our ability to walk a path that will be pleasing to God.
I pray that we each find ways to offer praise and thanksgiving on a daily basis, as many times as we can remember. A Muslim custom is to say “alhamdulillah” throughout daily life. This means “all praise belongs to God,” or, in more common English usage, “thanks be to God.” For example, when you ask someone in greeting, “How are you?,” the customary response would be, “I’m doing well, alhamdulillah.” This phrase , when offered mindfully, acknowledges that all is due to the grace and mercy of God, the source of all life and all blessings. A friend from Yemen shared that when she moved to the U.S., each morning in the shower she would say, “Alhamdulillah for the hot water.” In Yemen, she did not have hot water coming readily and abundantly from the tap; when she received this ordinary blessing, she felt compelled to offer thanks. This is what we must do: to praise God for the most ordinary of gifts. How often do you turn on the tap and say, “Praise be to God! Thank you for blessing me with clean water”? May we offer praise and thanksgiving freely and with sincerity.
What might happen if we all practice noticing our ordinary blessings? Realizing how rich we are, we might be inspired to give more often—not only material goods, but offerings of the spirit, extending a smile, a listening ear. Our sense of wonder can be deepened by our thankfulness for the sensory pleasures of nature—the blue of the sky, the song of a bird, and the crunch of leaves underfoot. Cultivating a spirit of thanksgiving might inspire us to greater appreciation of one another and deeper joy in our daily living. We can begin, in this moment, to thank God for each person who is a blessing in our lives, for it is God who created them and who renews their life each morning.
When we feast with our families, we give thanks for the abundance of God. When we experience days of scarcity, may we also feel thankful, for it is in those days that we have a chance to rely more heavily upon God and upon one another. When we wake each morning, may we give thanks that we have another day to serve one another, another day to strive to make God’s love manifest through our actions. With poet Maya Angelou, I invite you to “continue to let gratitude be the pillow upon which you kneel to say your nightly prayer.”