As we continue to explore the ways in which our prayer life changes and grows in this vocation, today we are going to look at allowing our life and work to become a prayer through our gratitude.
In I Thessalonians 5:16, Paul writes: Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus. And in Colossians he says: Let the peace of Christ control your hearts . . . and be thankful. Let the word of God dwell in you richly . . . with gratitude in your hearts.
The circumstances of life as a mother make it very challenging to give thanks in all things, and yet gratitude has a transformative power like no other, and our thankfulness is a form of prayer. One way to pray without ceasing is to thank the Lord throughout the day for all things―the joys, the sorrows, the beauty, and the ashes.
When my children were all very young, I remember being constantly frustrated with my abysmal prayer life. “I don’t have time to pray,” I would say. “My life is chaos.” And to be fair, it was. We had one in middle school, I was homeschooling one, the other three were under three and a half, and I was pregnant again. I was exhausted and frustrated, and a little resentful of the place I found myself in. I remember crying out to the Lord, “How on earth am I supposed to have a relationship with you like this?” Through my tears, a worship song I had heard a thousand times in my youth, but not in recent memory, came flooding back to my mind: Give thanks with a grateful heart. Give thanks to the Holy One. Give thanks because he has given Jesus Christ, his son. The chorus of the song goes on: And now, let the weak say I am strong, let the poor say I am rich, because of what the Lord has done for us. Never had I felt so weak, so poor, as I did as a mother of an ever-growing family, and yet in that moment, the Holy Spirit made it so clear to me that my eyes were not on Jesus.
As the days went on, I made a commitment to the Lord that I would start each day with a prayer of thanksgiving: This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it (Ps 118:24). Then I would force myself to find at least five things each day I was grateful for. Of course, it turned out that there were so many more than five! Once I turned my heart to the Lord in gratitude, I could see that, really, my cup was running over. Now it is a habit. Every time I put clothes in my washer, I thank God that I am not washing them by hand. Every time I load the dishwasher, I thank God I have that option. When I change a diaper, I thank God my child’s body is healthy. Every time my children make me want to scream, I thank the Lord for their lives and their little wills, and the fact that they have the ability to choose him, and to love him, and to be forgiven. I also then thank God that I can ask them for forgiveness since I sometimes yell first and thank God after.