Giving thanks to God may seldom occur outside of mealtime prayers for many of us. Words of praise find few places to surface as we scurry through our day. We manage to squeeze in time to ask God for something, but how often do we just say, “Thank you”?
The Bible teaches us that giving thanks should be a priority. The Apostle Paul begins almost all his letters to the early churches by expressing thanks. Also, we receive this instruction in Colossians 3:1-17: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” And Ephesians 5:20 says we are to always give “thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Although it may take time to work up to thanking God for everything, a grateful attitude will allow us to see our relationship with him in its proper perspective. We will understand our great need for God and stay humble before him and the people around us. Let’s be a blessing to God and others as we focus on developing and expressing a heart of thanksgiving.
Six creative ways to develop an attitude of gratitude
Keep a family thanksgiving journal. Use a notebook or blank journal to record what your family is thankful for. Add to it all year round during family devotions, or create an annual tradition where each family member contributes one message a year. Read past entries as a reminder of God’s faithfulness.
Create a name exchange. This is an idea for a dinner party or holiday gathering. Toss everyone’s name in a hat, then have each person draw one name. Allow some time for thought, then have everyone take a turn finishing this sentence, “I’m thankful for (name drawn) because ________.”
Incorporate gratitude into your table accents. Create easy, yet meaningful favors or place cards for guests at your holiday dinner. One idea is to use a paint pen to write “Thank you, God, for family and friends” on pressed leaves for each plate. Or bundle a few wrapped chocolates or unshelled nuts in little squares of netting. Tie them with ribbon and add a Psalm 95:2 tag, “Let us come before him with thanksgiving.”
Write thankful notes. Writing invites us to slow down, reflect, and choose our words carefully.
1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us to “encourage one another and build each other up….” Thoughtfully telling people what they mean to you will build up their spirit.
- If you have a spouse, write a letter about why you’re thankful for him or her. Find a nice quiet time to read it aloud.
- If you have children, write a letter to each of them, separately. (Write one even if they are young. They’ll treasure it some day.) If you have teens, perhaps leave the letters in their rooms to be “discovered” and read alone. Identify their strengths and encourage them with appreciative comments on those positive characteristics.
- Keep several little note cards in supply. Once a month, ask God to show you someone to bless — a neighbor, bus driver, scout leader, or co-worker. A simple note saying “I thank God for you” will suffice.
Find ways to show your gratitude to your church ministry leaders. Many churches now celebrate a pastor appreciation day, but what about those serving behind-the-scenes? Galatians 6:10 says, “As we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” Gather a few church friends and assign one ministry leader to each. Each friend brings a card and a baked good to his or her worker on behalf of everyone.
Make a thankful box. Purchase a small decorative box or wrap a shoebox with pretty paper. Put a notepad and pen inside and set it on your dresser. Everytime you’re angry with a person or situation in your life, write a note to God before you go to bed that night, expressing why you’re thankful for that person or difficulty. Use these slips during future quiet times to randomly select someone or something to pray for.
These outward activities serve to change our hearts. An earnestly developed attitude of gratitude will be reflected in our private walk with God. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name” (Psalm 100:4).