Last Sunday I had the prompting that all personal and family prayers (other than blessings on food) for everyone in the home should be nothing but expressions of gratitude. For one week we would not ask for anything in prayers and instead just focus on the blessings we receive. It’s been a wonderful experience. We’ve all been able to reflect more on things we are grateful for. It seems like the children have bickered less – not that they ever do much but occasionally they’ll bug one another – and that our home has been more peaceful.
I urge you to try the same – take a week and only express gratitude in your prayers. The Lord will show unto you the many tender mercies which He bestows upon you continually.
Image by MTSOFan on Flickr. Used under a CC license.
In my opinion, one of the most impactful of all the talks at the April 2014 General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is Pres. Henry B. Eyring’s talk given during the priesthood session: “The Priesthood Man.”
In particular there is one paragraph that I believe to be life-changing:
“We all pray, but the priesthood holder you want to be prays often and with real intent. In the evening you will get on your knees and thank God for the blessings of the day. You will thank Him for parents, for teachers, and for great examples to follow. You will describe in your prayers specifically who has blessed your life and how, during that day. That will take more than a few minutes and more than a little thought. It will surprise you and change you.” (Eyring, Henry B. (2014). The Priesthood Man).
Ever since I re-read this talk, I’ve taken his counsel to heart. Specifically, I “describe in your prayers specifically who has blessed your life and how, during that day.” This requires me to be more mindful throughout the day of how and who does something for me. The blessings can be as little as a smile or holding an elevator door or helping me with a task. The blessings can be a hug from a child or a spouse or a kind word said. Modifying my prayers to include this level of specificity helps me be more mindful of small and large acts of service around me and particularly ones done for me. Trying to mention names has also been beneficial. I’ve never been particularly good at remembering names (I once even introduced myself by the wrong name but that’s a story for a different time) so this counsel from Pres. Eyring provides encouragement for me to go out of my way to try and learn, remember, and later recall someone’s name.
The end result is that I get to express gratitude for specific acts of kindness or service. To do so requires me to be more grateful and watchful throughout the day. Our Father notices falling sparrows so we can certainly notice a held door or a warm smile. Searching and expressing gratitude for acts of kindness and service encourages me to go out of my way to do kind things for others. I’m grateful for the teachings of living prophets that help me become a better man.
As a father at Christmas time there are two things that particularly fill me with joy – 1) Giving gifts to my children and seeing their joy over those gifts and 2) seeing my children give gifts to each other and express gratitude for those gifts.
Perhaps all parents love giving gifts to their children, especially when they are young. There is little in life more rewarding than seeing expressions of joy and wonder on the faces of children when receiving gifts. There is little more rewarding than spending time figuring out what gifts children will like. Christmas time in particular gives me a glimpse into how our Heavenly Father feels towards us. All the joy I receive in giving gifts to my children is a reflection of the joy He must feel as He gives us gifts. Do we recognize those gifts and express gratitude for them? How must He feel when we abuse or do not acknowledge the gifts we receive from Him?
Last night, so as not to have them lost in the shuffle of opening other presents, my wife and I had our children open the gifts they had for and from each other. My oldest daughter spent many hours making gifts for her siblings. She sewed by hand stuffed animals for her sister and brother, making their favorite animals. That was touching enough to see how much time she spent on the gifts (they turned out quite well and cute). Even better was seeing the reaction of my other daughter upon opening the present; she pulled it out, looked at it, gave it a hug and said, “I love it!” Seeing the joy and the gratitude on my younger daughter’s face for the gift that had been made with a lot of love and time and a little stuffing brought tears to my eyes. I thought about how much Heavenly Father must love seeing His children do kind things for each other and be touched when gratitude and joy are shown in response.
I thought of the Sermon on the Mount when Christ taught, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matt. 7:7-11).
Our Father wants to give us gifts and He does! He blesses us many times and in many ways we will never know in this life. This is one reason we are commanded to be grateful in all things. This Christmas season is a particular time of giving. May we we experience the joy and wonder that comes as give freely with love to those around us! May we express gratitude to those who give so much to us – parents, family, friends, strangers, and God.