When we think of gratitude and a lack of gratitude, the biblical scene that comes to mind is the healing of the ten lepers, of whom only one, a Samaritan, returned to thank the Saviour, worshiping and praising God in a loud voice (Luke 17:15-16).
His gesture is the exception, and the ingratitude of the other nine healed lepers is the rule. There is often an “asymmetry” between the fervour of prayers for divine help and the coldness of prayers of thanksgiving after help has come. And often, too, the believer becomes really forgetful in his joy, and does not thank the Benefactor at all.
It can be assumed, if we forget to give thanks, that this shows not only ingratitude but also the absence of wisdom following the crisis we went through. The lesson has not been learned, even if it has been overcome. In addition, a lack of gratitude reveals a hidden arrogance: “I deserved it, I was worth it!”
Apparently, “a prayer of thanks” sounds oxymoronic. It seems to include two contradictory terms: praying, implicitly asking for something. And, if we give thanks, it means that we have received. But this type of prayer shows how fragile and dependent we are on divine support, in every step of our lives. Without it, we could and would be nothing. That is why, even when we give thanks, we offer prayers, because we know that we could never gain autonomy from our Creator. It is as if a child makes a gift to his parent, by using the gifts received from them.
Some theorists associate one’s gratitude with humility toward one’s benefactor and argue that it produces “an improved sense of self-coherence.”1
Moreover, gratitude to God turns into praise at the sight of His amazing works in our lives. It is born spontaneously in a soul full of gratitude. And as to the prayer of thanksgiving and praise, Jesus Christ is again the supreme model. Although he is the Beloved Son, to whom all things belong, He praises the Father, amazed at His miraculous works: “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do” (Matthew 11:25-26).
What the ungrateful person does not understand is that, if they were to become grateful, they would do themselves a great good. Some theorists associate one’s gratitude with humility toward one’s benefactor and argue that it produces “an improved sense of self-coherence.”1 Gratitude, in general, is beneficial for reconciliation and for satisfaction with oneself, with life, and with those around us. Moreover, gratitude to the Creator gives us the chance to become a beloved child of His, not only a rescued sinner. The grateful Samaritan healed from his leprosy receives an even more precious gift, for he is told, “Your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:19).
But can the prayer of thanksgiving and praise be as fervent as the one in which we ask the Divinity for something which we desire in pain or despair? Yes, as those who have experienced such special communion with God testify, the prayer of thanksgiving and praise can be as fervent as asking for something. Job’s lesson shows us that we can be zealously grateful to God, even when we do not understand His decisions in our lives. Job asks, “Will they find delight in the Almighty? Will they call on God at all times?” (Job 27:10).
The special state experienced by those who exalt the Divinity is not communicable through words—it is inaccessible. We can only approximate it by descriptions. The very name “Comforter”, given by Jesus Christ to the Holy Spirit, shows how He perceived Him before death and resurrection. Believers who have lived blissfully in communion with God use different words to describe it. ‘Beatitude’ is what also describes the “complete happiness”, the ecstatic joy of religious origin, attributed to the saints. It is compared to an enveloping comfort, with a feeling of peace and reconciliation, of upliftment and relief, calm, serenity, warmth in the heart, gentleness, and the melting of negative feelings.
Each of those who have experienced these feelings can identify some of those listed above and add others. What is certain is that, once lived, that communion with God nourishes you spiritually for the rest of your life, and you can only wish to relive it, as a “foretaste” of heavenly bliss.
The special state experienced by the one who exalt the Divinity is incommunicable through words—it is inaccessible. We can only approximate it by descriptions.
Therefore, the prayer of thanksgiving and praise is an integral part of life, and of authentic faith, and is its nourishing source. Anyone who feels the desire to praise God with gratitude will quote, at one point, the psalmist: “I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well” (Psalm 139:14).
Corina Matei, PhD, is an associate professor at the Faculty of Communication Sciences and International Relations at Titu Maiorescu University.