“Help me learn how to pray.” It is a statement or question that as a minister, I get often. As I read the Gospels, I notice that Jesus must have also gotten that question quite a bit because so much of his teachings are on how to pray.
One lesson that Jesus gives over and over again is on the power of gratitude as a prayer. So often we think of gratitude as an effect. We say thank you after the fact. But when you read the stories of Jesus, particularly the stories of the miracles, we find him giving thanks to the Father in advance of his request.
When Jesus talks about the Father, he is not talking about some man in the sky who grants or denies our wishes. He is talking about the Creative Principle from which everything springs. Charles Fillmore, co-founder of the Unity movement says, “Divine Principle is fundamental Truth. God as Principle is the unchangeable life, love, intelligence and substance of Being. It is the underlying plan by which God (the Father) moves in expressing Himself.”
So when Jesus gives thanks in advance, he affirms the fundamental Truth that God as Source is infinitely present. He claims in that moment that we are created from the field of God thereby provided with everything we need to live life freely and abundantly. Jesus understood that a continual consciousness of gratitude cultivates our field of awareness of Gods' good and our ability to lay claim to it.
Jesus gave thanks because he knew himself as God's beloved expression of life, love and creative expression. This was his instruction to us. He taught us to pray a constant prayer of gratitude in order that we, too, will grow in the awareness of God's good everywhere present. As gratitude becomes our living prayer, we train our eyes to see and our ears to hear only God. The more we focus on the presence of God, the more we expand the experience of God through and all around us. It all begins with a simple “thank you!”
We can, as Jesus taught, give thanks as a facilitator for our good rather than as just a response. In other words, what catches our attention catches us. If we focus on those things that bring light into our world, then we will experience more light and vice versa. If we focus on darkness, then we will get more of the same. So what about the darkness? Is there any purpose to darkness?
So often, those of us in New Thought erroneously believe that we must chase away the clouds. Their very presence suggests that something has gone awry along our spiritual journey. But what if the darkness was the exact circumstance we needed to catapult us on our spiritual journey?
There is a saying that I hear often which is, “The worse best thing that ever happened to me!” We all have those experiences where it feels like the ground underneath our feet has opened up and the world swallows us whole. We not only lose our footing but our entire foundation crumbles around us. It may take the form of a death, an illness, loss of a relationship or job. Or it may be as ambiguous as the loss of a dream, our innocence, or an ideal. Whatever it may be, life feels different and it is not usually warm and fuzzy.
Often we pray that God will take the situation away. We see it as a mistake or a result of our faulty thinking. When we shift into gratitude, we shift our perception and make room for the possibility that the darkness may contain the very light we were looking for. If we face the darkness with gratitude, our eyes adjust and we notice things that were hidden in the light. We discover nuances about ourselves, our strengths and abilities that were concealed before. Because the darkness requires us to slow down and be more intentional, we discover what is important. We pare down to the absolute necessities and come to discover that we have more than enough. We discover what true contentment is and what we really value. And we discover a depth to life and a presence of God that we never knew before.
What is your best worse thing? When you look back on your life or at your current situation, can you choose gratitude in this moment? Gratitude is a choice we can make at any point along the way. It is a decision to ignite the darkness with your light and to live life fully and completely in all circumstance. Join me as together we choose the power of gratitude, and give thanks for everything.