A few weeks ago, after dinner in the rectory, a small group of us went to church to hear our choir perform a couple of choral pieces. I was particularly struck by the second piece. It was a Hymn of Thanks written by Don Krubsack, the husband of our choir director, Teri Larson. The text was part of a poem by George Herbert. The entire piece only takes a couple of minutes, but I was and continue to be struck by its beauty and simplicity. The words are simple, but compelling, and made more so by Don’s beautiful musical accompaniment. “You, Lord, have given so much to me. Give me one thing more, a grateful heart, a grateful heart. Not thankful only when it pleases me, but a heart whose pulse may always give you praise.”
I think one of the reasons I was so struck by this hymn was that for several months now I have been closing my prayer time in the morning by asking God to give me a grateful heart, a generous heart, a compassionate heart, and a humble heart. And while I have a long way to go in terms of these things being a part of my life, I want to believe that when I heard this beautiful Hymn of Thanks, God was giving me a sign that I am on the right track.
In a world where so much is available to us at the tips of our fingers, it is hard sometimes to remember that all that we have and all that we are comes to us from our loving God. Now certainly many of us work long and hard. We are used to making our way in the world, and earning our passage. All of this is possible, though, only because our God first loved us into being and gave us the talents, the abilities, and the resources we need to succeed and to flourish.
When we focus, though, only on our own efforts and consider only what we don’t have and/or what we still want, it can be hard to remember, let alone to feel gratitude. And yet, we could accomplish nothing, if not for the completely gratuitous love of God. Developing a grateful heart is at the core of our relationship with God.
How do we develop a grateful heart? Well, while I believe this is the task of a lifetime, I also believe it begins by asking God to help us want to be grateful. I am more and more convinced that unless we want to do something, we are not apt to do it. So we need to begin by asking God to help us want to be grateful. We then need to acknowledge those things for which we need to be grateful. And we need to close the loop by asking God to help us be grateful—not just when it pleases us—but at all times.
At times gratitude is instinctual. More often, though, I think it is a behavior that we learn through prayerful practice. Given this, may we who have been given so much, remember to ask God for one thing more—a grateful heart—not thankful only when it pleases us, but a heart whose pulse may always give God praise.