Giving thanks for what we ... don’t have?

Sometimes it can seem we’re missing something in our lives. Recognizing that we are all included in God’s abundance brings healing and solutions.

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Why would anyone ever give thanks for what they don’t have? Or, at least, for what sure appears to be lacking?

About 700 years ago, a German theologian named Meister Eckhart said, “If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘Thank You’ that would suffice.” This reminds me of a powerful account in the Bible. For the several thousand hungry people who, for three days, had been following Jesus as he taught, it might have made sense to disperse to find food. Instead, Jesus began talking with his disciples about a few loaves of bread that they had on hand. There was a total of only seven loaves.

What Jesus did next might have seemed astounding. He “commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks” (Mark 8:6).

Gave thanks? Clearly, lack was not an element of Jesus’ prayer. He asked that the loaves be distributed to the people. Soon, not only was the entire crowd fed, but they also had plenty of leftovers.

It had seemed certain that there was a serious lack of food: seven loaves versus thousands of people. No one, not even his disciples, seemed to feel there was enough. Jesus, however, saw everything so differently. He understood that what actually was present was not just a little bit of good, but an abundance of good. And he made a point of giving thanks for it!

Jesus’ prayers were a result of what God had revealed to him. Prayers that are vibrant and life-changing stem from not just rote words, but a willingness to consider things beyond the narrow view that the physical senses offer. Then we’re ready to discern God’s revelations of how things actually are – the spiritual reality of God’s love and abundant care for His entire creation. Then, we can’t help but give thanks for the wonderfully present spiritual goodness that God bestows on all.

Near the beginning of her book on prayer and healing, “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” Mary Baker Eddy asks, “Are we really grateful for the good already received?” (p. 3). We don’t need to implore God, who is infinite good, to hand us what we’ve already been given. Instead, prayer reveals that, through God’s boundless expression of Himself in us – His spiritual offspring – we presently possess perfect wholeness, ability, boundless opportunity, and so on.

The value of prayerful gratitude was proven to me when I was playing on my college baseball team and injured my forearm while diving for a ball. Later in the game, when it was my turn to hit, I couldn’t really even swing the bat.

My health clearly appeared to be lacking. It might have been tempting to pray by asking God to give me what I appeared to be missing – my mobility and comfort – but I didn’t go there. I knew from studying Christian Science that a grateful acknowledgment of what is already present spiritually is effective prayer.

From that point forward, a few times each hour, I took joyful opportunities to give thanks. I allowed myself to feel heartfelt gratitude for the permanent goodness, and even perfection, that God was already expressing in me – His loved, spiritual child. I kept it that simple!

Soon it dawned on me that, as God’s child, I actually wasn’t missing health at all. As I continued praying, I found myself quickly healed, with complete freedom on (and off) the baseball field. Another nice effect was that I felt more peaceful and so full of love for the players, both on my team and the other teams we played.

Whether we’re praying for ourselves or for the world at large, we can contemplate with gratitude how, here and now, we are each naturally capable of feeling God’s overflowing goodness.

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