“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thess 5:18)
It’s not always easy for me to remember to give thanks in all things. It is much easier to remember to give thanks when things are going well. There are , however, blessings that come from remembering to give thanks.
Luke shares an account the Savior had with ten lepers.
“And it came to pass, as he went to Jerusalem, that he passed through the midst of Samaria and Galilee. And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off: And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And when he saw them, he said unto them, Go shew yourselves unto the priests. And it came to pass, that, as they went, they were cleansed. And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God, And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger. And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Luke 17:10-19).
In this, the important lesson comes at the end. After all 10 lepers were healed, one of them stopped and gave thanks to the Lord. It is after he “fell down on his face…giving him thanks” that the Lord provided the ultimate blessing. You see, 10 were healed of leprosy, but only 1 was made whole. Only one was forgiven of his sins! That is the power of expressing gratitude!
I’m sure all 10 of the lepers were very happy to be healed of this awful disease. I have to wonder though, how long that happiness lasted for the nine who showed no gratitude? I’m not suggesting that happiness is dependent upon gratitude, but I am suggesting that lasting happiness is founded upon an attitude of gratitude.
We find another example of giving thanks to God in the Book of Mormon. King Benjamin, in his final address to his people, provided some great council regarding gratitude.
“And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings, ye are only in the service of your God. Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another? And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you O how ye ought to thank your heavenly King! I say unto you, my brethren, that if ye should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess…I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.” (Mosiah 2:18-21 emphasis added)
This passage is interesting because it ties together the concept of giving thanks to the concept of serving God. This leads me to the understanding then that one way we show thanks and gratitude to our Heavenly Father is by serving Him…and one way we can serve Him is by serving our fellow man.
This Thanksgiving Day I went with my son and a few other young men from church to help serve dinners at Faith Lutheran Church in O’Fallon, Illinois. There were about 230 dinners served to all sorts of people. I have to be honest though, I wasn’t very excited about leaving my family on Thanksgiving Day to go and serve dinner to strangers. In fact, I almost just dropped off my son and went back home, but I decided it would be better to serve with my son than to have him serve alone…so I went. I’m glad I did.
I appreciated the smiles of those who enjoyed a good meal. I saw the grace of God in another volunteer as she sat with a lone man—his face etched with hidden pain. My heart was filled with gratitude for good people who feel the call of the Savior to feed the hungry (Luke 3:11, Isaiah 58:7, Matthew 25:34-45).
A word of warning regarding expressing thanks: we should ensure that as we express thanks and gratitude that we do not become like the Zoramites in the Book of Mormon. As Alma and his brethren were traveling through on their mission,
“they found that the Zoramites had built synagogues, and that they did gather themselves together on one day of the week, which day they did call the day of the Lord; and they did worship after a manner which Alma and his brethren had never beheld; For they had a place built up in the center of their synagogue, a place for standing, which was high above the head; and the top thereof would only admit one person. Therefore, whosoever desired to worship must go forth and stand upon the top thereof, and stretch forth his hands towards heaven, and cry with a loud voice, saying: Holy, holy God; we believe that thou art God, and we believe that thou art holy, and that thou wast a spirit, and that thou art a spirit, and that thou wilt be a spirit forever. Holy God, we believe that thou hast separated us from our brethren; and we do not believe in the tradition of our brethren, which was handed down to them by the childishness of their fathers; but we believe that thou hast elected us to be thy holy children; and also thou hast made it known unto us that there shall be no Christ. But thou art the same yesterday, today, and forever; and thou hast elected us that we shall be saved, whilst all around us are elected to be cast by thy wrath down to hell; for the which holiness, O God, we thank thee; and we also thank thee that thou hast elected us, that we may not be led away after the foolish traditions of our brethren, which doth bind them down to a belief of Christ, which doth lead their hearts to wander far from thee, our God. And again we thank thee, O God, that we are a chosen and a holy people. Amen.” (Alma 31:12-18).
Sure, the Zoramites were praying, but they lacked other qualities of a follower of Christ: namely humility & compassion. We see the correct pattern for prayer as Christ taught his disciples to pray on the Mount of Beatitudes:
“Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.” (Matthew 6:9-13)
At first glance, the Lord’s Prayer doesn’t seem to express thanks or gratitude. What it does show is the importance of our attitude as we pray. The Pharisees prayed to be seen of men. Jesus was teaching that we should pray not to be seen of men, but to heard of God. He was teaching that must pray with an attitude of Thanksgiving.
Elder David A. Bednar shared an experience he had when he was President of BYU-Idaho that really drives home the impact of praying with thanksgiving.
“During our service at Brigham Young University–Idaho, Sister Bednar and I frequently hosted General Authorities in our home. Our family learned an important lesson about meaningful prayer as we knelt to pray one evening with a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.
Earlier in the day Sister Bednar and I had been informed about the unexpected death of a dear friend, and our immediate desire was to pray for the surviving spouse and children. As I invited my wife to offer the prayer, the member of the Twelve, unaware of the tragedy, graciously suggested that in the prayer Sister Bednar express only appreciation for blessings received and ask for nothing. His counsel was similar to Alma’s instruction to the members of the ancient Church “to pray without ceasing, and to give thanks in all things” (Mosiah 26:39). Given the unexpected tragedy, requesting blessings for our friends initially seemed to us more urgent than expressing thanks.
Sister Bednar responded in faith to the direction she received. She thanked Heavenly Father for meaningful and memorable experiences with this dear friend. She communicated sincere gratitude for the Holy Ghost as the Comforter and for the gifts of the Spirit that enable us to face adversity and to serve others. Most importantly, she expressed appreciation for the plan of salvation, for the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ, for His Resurrection, and for the ordinances and covenants of the restored gospel which make it possible for families to be together forever.
Our family learned from that experience a great lesson about the power of thankfulness in meaningful prayer. Because of and through that prayer, our family was blessed with inspiration about a number of issues that were pressing upon our minds and stirring in our hearts. We learned that our gratefulness for the plan of happiness and for the Savior’s mission of salvation provided needed reassurance and strengthened our confidence that all would be well with our dear friends. We also received insights concerning the things about which we should pray and appropriately ask in faith.
How often do our prayers include more “I ask thee” than “I thank thee”?
How often do we pray simply to give thanks to Heavenly Father for the many blessings we have? Sometimes our circumstance makes it difficult to pray with thanksgiving when everything around us seems to be falling apart. The simple act of being grateful in the midst of challenges will help us overcome all things.
So what are some of the things I am thankful for?
First and foremost, I am thankful for the Gospel of Jesus Christ…the Plan of Salvation…the Plan of Happiness…the Plan of Mercy. Call it what you may, it brings peace and happiness to my life. In fact, this single “thing” is the foundation for everything else that I am thankful for.
Family – Everything I do in this life is for my family. It may not always seem like it to my family, but there is no other place I’d rather be than with them.
Home – Heavenly Father has truly blessed my family with an amazing home that provides shelter from the rain, warmth from the snow, and protection from evil.
Health – Watching extended family suffer through illness has made me more appreciative of my own health. We all think that we are invincible—that we will never get sick or die—but we will.
Employment – Heavenly Father blessed me with a wonderful military career. Then he allowed me to leave early and provided a contractor position with no period of unemployment. Most recently, he blessed me to obtain a management position with a fantastic company.
Service Opportunities – As the leader of the Young Men in our congregation, I have the best calling in the church. I get to work not only with other members of the ward, but I get to work directly with my own son. What better way to serve the Lord than to serve your own family at the same time!
Freedom – There are so many people in the world who live without the freedoms we have. Freedom of press, speech, religion. Freedom of travel, freedom of choice. These freedoms come at a very high price though—we owe it to all who serve and who have served to treasure that freedom. We also owe it to those without these freedoms to help them in every way possible.
Music – I love feeling the spirit that comes from listening to the sacred hymns of the gospel. I love the calmness that music brings to my soul.
There are many other things for which I am grateful. I’ll end this with the Lord’s council to Joseph Smith: “Thou shalt thank the Lord thy God in all things…And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments” (D&C 59:7, 21).