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Begin with gratitude

From the April 2, 2018 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

Adapted from a Daily Lift podcast on christianscience.com.


Healing and sports have something in common—the importance of not neglecting the fundamentals. 

Golfers and baseball players, for example, often practice the basics of good alignment, a balanced stance, and getting their hands in the right position. Both pros and amateurs focus on these elemental concepts. I’ve observed that consistent spiritual healers also regularly return to the fundamentals—of prayer. And the Bible suggests that gratitude is one of the fundamental aspects of prayer. 

In the book of Psalms you can find dozens of instances of thanksgiving to God. Gratitude opens our thought to God’s presence and to an explicit recognition of God’s goodness, power, and bounty. For instance, in Psalm 100 we read, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name” (verse 4), and in Psalm 68, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loadeth us with benefits, even the God of our salvation” (verse 19).

Gratitude is a way of acknowledging that every day God loads us up with “benefits,” giving us an abundance of insightful and productive ideas, a generous supply of unselfishness, and a boatload of joy and peace to express.

In the New Testament, in Paul’s letters to his followers (Romans, Corinthians, etc.), he almost always begins by thanking God, and often closes with more gratitude and praise. As a follower of Christ Jesus, Paul understood the fundamental importance of thanksgiving.

Gratitude is one of the fundamental aspects of prayer. 

Three of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and John) describe how Jesus fed the multitudes in the wilderness with just a few loaves and fishes—beginning with gratitude. And the Gospel of John depicts Jesus giving thanks to God before he raised Lazarus from the dead: “And Jesus lifted up his eyes, and said, Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me.… When he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth” (11:41, 43).

In multiplying the loaves and fishes, Jesus gave thanks to demonstrate his confidence in and respect for God’s law of supply. In the case of raising Lazarus, he voiced his trust in the law of Life so that others might learn from his example. In each situation, gratitude came before the visible manifestation of healing. 

It’s clear from her writings that Mary Baker Eddy also considered gratitude a fundamental element of healing. In “Prayer,”the first chapter of her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, she writes: “Are we really grateful for the good already received? Then we shall avail ourselves of the blessings we have, and thus be fitted to receive more” (p. 3). This suggests that we are fit to receive more when we acknowledge that divine good exists—here and now. 

When I begin my prayer with gratitude, it acts as an important change agent. It invariably shifts my thought out of a mentality of fear or complaint into a state of thought that’s ready to recognize the divine goodness already at work. It allows me to become receptive to the spiritual facts about me—to start seeing myself as God sees me. In my experience, healing comes when we are receptive to what God is knowing, instead of ruminating and rehearsing the anxieties of the human mind. 

Something similar happens with respect to the fundamentals of athletics: Bad basic alignment, physical and mental, produces poor results on the field of play. Good basic alignment helps the athlete, and the team, achieve good results.

A few years ago, my daughter and I were hiking in the Sierra Nevada mountains. After five days at an elevation of over 10,000 feet, where the air is quite thin, we were climbing very slowly up a ridge and gasping for breath. We were tired and getting grumpy. I said, “Attitude is altitude.” She responded, “Gratitude is altitude.” Gratitude is altitude. That’s right! The act of thanksgiving lifts our thinking out of the mental bog. Instead of trudging along mired in a sense of fatigue, focused on sore feet and aching muscles, we began to elevate our thought out of that energy-sapping mental state. 

We began to elevate our thought out of an energy-sapping mental state.

We started naming things on the hike that we were grateful for: the curious marmots that watched us as we climbed, a complete healing of altitude sickness earlier in the trip, the friendliness and support of other hikers, and the stunning vistas. Our pace quickened. The incline hadn’t lessened, nor had the air thickened, but our thought had shifted. Before we knew it, we had reached the top of the ridge.

What happened? We became inspired—divinely lifted into a higher mental outlook—by recognizing all the divinely bestowed beauty, love, and grace surrounding us. All of God’s goodness had been there all along, but we hadn’t seen it because we were focusing on our difficulties. 

Gratitude is altitude. Expressing thanks lifts our thought higher so that we get a more accurate, divine perspective on ourselves and the blessings in our lives.

Adapted from a Daily Lift podcast on christianscience.com.

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