Video Link: Teach Us to Pray Video #2 – Gratitude* (This is a video of the reflection printed below.)
Read: Psalm 148
Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars! (Psalm 148:3, NRSV)
One of the best reasons to pray is simply to say “thank you” to God. And even on a bad day, there are a lot of things for which to be thankful. Sometimes, just remembering those things makes a bad day better.
We often make the mistake of thinking that prayer has to be complicated. But prayers of gratitude can be as simple as focusing for a moment on the thing for which we are thankful. I often imagine holding it in my hands—cherishing it for a moment in God’s presence. It’s a gesture that both acknowledges that you have received something from God as a gift, and that you are offering your thanks back to God for that gift.
One other thing. As we give thanks, I think it’s important to remember that our small prayers of gratitude are, in fact, joining with the praises of all creation. The psalms, after all, assume that every part of God’s creation has a “voice” with which to praise the Creator. We may not be able to hear that voice with our ears, but that doesn’t mean God can’t hear it.
Psalm 148, for instance, includes all sorts of things in its call to praise: human beings are included, of course—but so are the sun, moon, & stars—sea monsters, fire, hail, snow and frost—mountains, hills, fruit trees, and cedars—wild animals, cattle, creeping things and flying birds. You get the picture. So, when you pray, think of it not so much as a solo, but a symphony! That in itself, is something for which to be thankful.
Ponder: What makes you want to join the symphony today?
O Thou who by Thy touch give form
To all things and their polity,
Whose sight is light to all, draw thanks
From us as we draw breath from Thee.
A poem by Wendell Berry from This Day: Collected & New Sabbath Poems (Berkely, CA: Counterpoint, 2013) p. 341.
*This video was written and delivered by the Rev. Dr. Carol M. Bechtel, Professor of Old Testament at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan (Reformed Church in America). Dr. Bechtel is also the Executive Director of the American Waldensian Society. These videos were produced by the Chiesa Evangelica Valdese https://www.chiesavaldese.org/and filmed in the Cottian Alps near Torre Pellice, Italy in July of 2020.
Introduction to Teach Us to Pray Series 2
On my recent sabbatical in Italy, colleagues from the Waldensian church invited me to do a series of short videos on prayer. These reflections are a result of that invitation. Although they were written and filmed in the midst of the pandemic (July 2020), they are not “Covid-19 specific.” Still, knowing that they were created in that crucible may add a certain urgency—and utility—to them. I offer them to you here in the hope that they will help you to pray even as our world’s anxiety threatens to make our souls mute.
All of the videos were filmed outside my little lockdown chalet in the Angrogna Valley in northwest Italy, so at the very least, you can enjoy the scenery. And I hope you also enjoy the Italian subtitles. Learn Italian while learning to pray!
Still learning and still praying,