Excerpted from The Quest
“Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always.” —John 11:41-42
Picture the scene. It's a hot, dry day in Bethany. The air is heavy with dust and almost chokes the mournful group of people clinging to each other before the cave which serves as a tomb.
Lazarus, brother of Martha and Mary, has been dead for four days. Jesus stands there with the small band of mourners and weeps for his friend. “If only Jesus had arrived earlier, He could have saved Lazarus,” is the word circulating among the group. “But now, now, it is too late.”
How it must have dumbfounded Martha and Mary and the others, in the midst of this grieving moment, to hear Jesus suddenly giving thanks to God! What could their reactions have been? What would yours have been? “Father, I thank thee that thou has heard me. I knew that thou hearest me always.” What kind of words were these? A man has been lying dead in his tomb for four days and now his friend is giving thanks!
But any surprise or bewilderment no doubt quickly turned to awe as Jesus, with His next breath, cried out for Lazarus to come forth out of the tomb. The atmosphere must have been electric as the mourners watched in utter astonishment as the dead man, still wrapped in his burial cloth, came out to them.
The power of the moment, the extreme emotional mixture of joy, shock, and disbelief, must have been beyond our imagination. Lazarus was alive! And the catalyst which had made it all happen, the key which had opened the passageway from death to life, was Jesus’ prayer of thanksgiving.
Fan the Flame
It’s interesting to muse about that incident and imagine how it all came about and what eventually happened to the people involved. Surely their lives were changed forever by the experience. How could they not have been? Yet in their quiet reflections of reliving the scene and thinking about it in the years which followed, every one of those who had been present must have realized that it was the simple prayer, the giving of thanks, which set the “miracle” into motion. “Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.”
Thanksgiving isn't just words, however. Jesus’ words represented the feelings in His heart. His thanksgiving was a verbal description of feelings He had for God. In thanking God, He was acknowledging that God's desire for Him and for Lazarus was only good. The feeling of thanksgiving is an emotion, a visceral reaction, and not an idea.
We can intellectualize about all of the things we have in our lives for which to be grateful. We can make lists, long lists, of the innumerable reasons we should give thanks. This is good, because it helps us realize just how extremely blessed we are. We all have something, many things, for which to give thanks.
Still the lists, the realizations, the words, are not enough. They are only helpful if they lead us into that feeling of thanksgiving. We need the feeling, the inner fullness of a grateful heart in order to tap that power within us.
We learned a long time ago in our journey together on The Quest that strong emotions will overpower an intellectual idea virtually every time. Feelings activate the powers which make the changes and do the work. Feelings are the catalyst and the sustaining fuel of our actions. When feelings cease, action ceases. In fact, you would not even continue walking across a room if you didn't feel like doing it.
It is your responsibility, then, to ignite the feeling of thanksgiving in yourself. It is nothing anyone can give you, or anything you can take in from outside of Yourself. While you may be feeling ungrateful because of a present challenge, deep within you are the embers of thanksgiving, waiting to be fanned into full blaze. With enough fanning, an attitude of gratitude will easily become a habit.