Give thanks to the Lord, who is good,
whose love endures forever;
1 Chronicles 16:34
Our fourth and final form of prayer is thanksgiving, which is one of the most natural forms of prayer we experience as people of faith. I strive to focus on personal prayers of thankfulness each day and offer space to those around me as well. Culturally, we lack a sense of gratitude in our everyday lives. There is such a focus on what else we need or want that we often neglect what we already have. Even practicing gratitude for our basic needs being met (food, water, shelter, clothing, community) when we feel like we do not have much to be thankful for can be enough to help slowly pull us out of the dark pit our consumerist culture creates.
Still stumped on what a prayer of thankfulness may look like? That's okay. Here's a few ways I try to offer up prayers of thanksgiving each week and encourage those around me to do the same!
You could practice Thankful Thursdays and write a short thank you note to God, a family member, friend, or underappreciated staff member at work. I have my students practice this each Thursday, which is also our Mass day. You'd be amazed by the lengthy letters young teens write to God when given the time, space, and spiritual environment.
Try saving one decade of your Rosary for thankfuls. Try to think one for each of the 10 Hail Mary beads. "For my husband, Hail Mary... " "For my job, Hail Mary..." "For this beautiful weather, Hail Mary..." You get the picture.
Try to think of three things you are grateful for each night before going to bed. Even if that is the only prayer you offer before hitting the hay, what a positive note to end on each night!
Boost your prayer time by offering a simple prayer of thanksgiving after each meal or your shared family meal. It can be as simple as "God, thank you for this food and community" or more elaborate like a memorized prayer that you say together.
What are you thankful for today? It can be as deep as grace, the Sacraments, or God's mercy and as simple as food, coffee, or a particular friend.
Curious about the three other forms of prayer? Check them out below!
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O, my God, I am sorry for my sins with all my heart
In choosing to do wrong and in failing to do good
I have sinned against you
Whom I should love above all things.
I firmly intend with your help to do penance,
To sin no more,
And to avoid whatever leads me to sin.
Our Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered and died for us.
In His name, my God, have mercy.
When I was first learned the Act of Contrition in first grade, I had no idea that power in the prayer that I memorized and uttered at lightening speed in the confessional, so proud that I had learned this new prayer on my own in time for my first confession. But the power of a sincere confession has not been lost on me as I have grown and needed God's grace and forgiveness in a very real.
In one particular confession, with sin weighing heavy on my heart, I finally admitted my greatest sin to a kind, loving confessor who met me where I was. I was so proud and convinced that my failures were so much greater than God's love that I felt unforgivable again and again after leaving confession.
However, I was taught a young age that God will always forgive the truly contrite heart. There is no mountain too tall, no valley too wide that God's love cannot overcome. Isaiah reminds us that God's love is greater than any natural disaster in chapter 54 when he writes:
"Though the mountains fall away
and the hills be shaken,
My love shall never fall away from you
nor my covenant of peace[a] be shaken,
says the Lord, who has mercy on you."
Regardless of what we have done, our gentle, loving Father only needs our willing invitation and sincere prayer of contrition (memorized or not) to come rushing back to rush with open arms and wonderful grace.
Say "I'm sorry," today, sister. He's waiting for you.