Photo of a Cornucopia by George GrimHowell
Cornucopia by George GrimHowell

 

Every Day Is Thanksgiving

By Stephen M. Bird. Posted November 23, 2014.
(Excerpt from Prayers That Bring Miracles)   Print this Article

One of the biggest reasons we don’t get more miracles is that we don’t recognize or appreciate the ones we already have. We don’t give the fitting and required credit to God. Thanksgiving, praise, glory, and credit are things we owe our Heavenly Father, and they are things he requires of us. Thankfulness simply acknowledges our debt to God. A lack of thankfulness tells him either that we think that we owe him nothing at all or that we don’t appreciate what he has given us. To credit a blessing to our own hard work is a denial of the truth. It robs us of honest humility and it robs God of the appreciation we owe him. Such a course is not likely to encourage his help.

God Sees Our Rudeness

When we are ungrateful, God sees our rudeness. Remember the time Christ healed the ten lepers? Only one returned to glorify and thank him. Then Jesus asked, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine?” (Luke 17:12-19). How would Jesus have responded if those nine approached him with another request? How about the one who did thank him? Don’t you think God would be open to creating more miracles for him? Jesus bid the man arise and said, “Go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:19).

God allowed Gideon only 300 men to go up against a vast host of Midianites. He said to Gideon, “The people that are with thee are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, Mine own hand hath saved me” (Judg. 7:2).

If God cut the number of Israelites from 32,000 to 300, just to ensure that Israel wouldn’t claim the credit for themselves, then it must be very tempting to believe happy events are the result of our own work, effort, and strength. But notice also that God says that if the Israelites stole his glory, in effect, they would be vaunting themselves against him! Can you imagine the seriousness of being found in opposition to our Heavenly Father, of denying that his help has been important or has been given?

We are clearly submitting to the will of God only when we are genuinely grateful for what he has given to us. To complain about God’s gifts angers him. It may even provoke him to remove blessings or replace them with punishments.

Ungrateful

For example, the Lord miraculously freed the Israelites from slavery to the Egyptians. Then he fed them every day in the wilderness with manna. He gave them water from a rock and extended the life of their shoes and clothes. Yet in spite of all his blessings, the children of Israel complained about their lot again and again. Moses said that “when the people complained, it displeased the Lord; and the Lord heard it; and his anger was kindled; and the fire of the Lord burnt among them, and consumed them that were in the uttermost parts of the camp” (Num. 11:1).

Why should our Father give us more blessings if we can’t or won’t recognize the ones we already have? In short, an important part of submissive prayer is to recognize and praise God for our blessings. The ability to recognize a miracle is usually necessary to invite more miracles. God gives miracles to those who appreciate the ones they already have.

A child’s request is often a pleasure to fill when that child is appreciative, but it’s a drag when the child isn’t. I remember one occasion when I took my four children to see a movie they especially wanted to see, but when it ended only one of my children remembered to thank me. One not only forgot to thank me but threw a tantrum when he didn’t get some candy. At that moment, I was sorry I’d taken him to the movie. I wonder how Heavenly Father feels about handling new requests without receiving any appreciation for requests he has previously filled. A genuinely grateful prayer must be a very refreshing change for him.

The Brig

As a Navy chaplain at Pearl Harbor, I often led Protestant worship services at the brig, which is a military jail. Mandatory confinement is no great experience, and many prisoners felt that God had abandoned them. Some harbored bitter feelings and forgot their blessings. I would occasionally ask them, “Which of you would sacrifice both of your eyes to get out of here?” No one ever said yes. They had forgotten the miracle of vision and other blessings as well.

I often told them about a U.S. military ship which [in 1958] pulled into a Japanese port. The ship was surrounded by barges packed with Japanese who were going to clean, scrape, and paint the ship for the privilege of eating the kitchen garbage. [1]  I would point out that the brig confines had hot fresh meals, clean beds, warm clothes, hot daily showers, television, free time for basketball, volleyball, letter writing, visiting with friends, etc. Yes, the quality of their lives had fallen and their freedoms were temporarily restricted, but our Father hadn’t abandoned them, and they still had many blessings.

We need to understand how blessed we really are. We are affluent people, and if you don’t think so, try answering these questions:


 1. Do you have more than one pair of shoes?

 2. Do you have more than one choice about what you will eat for each meal?

 3. Do you have access to your own means of transportation?

 4. Do you have more than one set of underwear?


 If you answered “yes“ to three or more of these questions, then by the overall standards of the world, you are affluent. Fewer than 10 percent of all the people who have ever lived have been able to answer “yes” to three or more of these questions at any one time in their lives. [2]

It’s wrong to forget our blessings. Nobody likes ingratitude: not you, not me and certainly not the Lord, who has commanded us “to give thanks in all things” (Mosiah 26:39).

More than once, I have knelt with great burdens and felt God prompt me to thank him for my blessings.


Although we so often fail to rejoice in our blessings, the irony is that doing so can be a powerful antidote for unhappiness. One doctor prescribed six weeks of saying thank you for those caught in worry and self-doubt. Within that time most of his patients who applied the prescription lost their worries and doubts. [3] More than once, I have knelt with great burdens and felt God prompt me to thank him for my blessings. As I remembered them I grew so happy I forgot my problems. I would just say, “Thanks, Father. I’ve got everything I need.” I couldn’t remember what had depressed me. The Lord said:

And he who receiveth all things with thankfulness shall be made glorious; and the things of this earth shall be added unto him, even an hundred fold, yea, more. (D&C 78:19)

We are blessed when we thank, praise, and worship Heavenly Father for his kindness because when he sees that we recognize and appreciate his hand in our lives, then he knows we’re ready for more blessings. He knows we won’t be spoiled. Alma tells us to “live in thanksgiving daily, for the many mercies and blessings which [God] doth bestow upon you” (Alma 34:38). President J. Reuben Clark said, “hold fast to the blessings which God has provided for you. Yours is not the task to gain them, they are here; yours is the part of cherishing them.” [4]

The Hallelujah Chorus

The “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel‘s Messiah is one of the most stirring examples of praise ever written. The word hallelujah is found in many psalms. Its derivation is Hebrew, and the first portion, halal, means “to praise.” The final portion, jah, stands for the letters JHVW, which is the Hebrew symbol for Jehovah. Hallelujah means, literally, “to praise Jehovah.” [5] The Psalms are full of praise for the Lord, and the words you will find in them are good examples to use in your prayers. Consider the last verse in the very last psalm. “Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord” (Ps. 150:6). Indeed, try the interesting experiment of starting with the 150th Psalm and working your way backward through the psalms to see how much they praise the Lord.

To begin with praise and gratitude may be a new way of praying for you. It may require some divine help just to change your order or prayer. Ask Heavenly Father to help you see your blessings and recount them. I often ask him to help me remember each of his blessings, and I name them one by one. As I do that, something inside me changes. My frustrations lift, and I begin to see how much God has cared for me already. I begin to see his interest in my life. I can feel his Spirit working within my soul, and I can, if I listen intently, begin to hear the still, small voice of God which speaks to bless our lives.

Notes:

[1] Charles R. Swindoll, Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life (Portland, OR: Multnomah Press, 1990), 289.

[2] Stephen Glenn and Jane Nelson, Raising Self-Reliant Children in a Self-Indulgent World (Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing and Communications, 1989), 44-45; emphasis mine.

[3] Fred Bauer, “Thanks for Everything,” Reader’s Digest, November 1994, 172.

[4] J. Reuben Clark, Church News, June 14, 1969, 2: emphasis mine.

[5] Old Testament Student Manual Genesis – 2 Samuel (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1980), 309. See also Old Testament Gospel Doctrine Teacher’s Manual (Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1989).

 

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