According to the ancient tradition, Catholic prayer has centered itself in four basic areas of addressing God. The first is adoration, or the very act of praising God as the Supreme Being, the Creator of all things and the Source of our being. Second, we find the prayer of contrition, or the stance of being before God as sinners in need of forgiveness and mercy. Third, and probably the best known and most used of our traditional prayer styles, is petition, or our prayers asking God for favors or stating our specific needs and intentions for our daily lives. Fourth is the traditional style of prayer for Thanksgiving, or the means by which we show gratitude to God. Thanksgiving is usually listed last in the prayer styles and usually is the last among the ways in which we actually communicate with our God.
To begin, it is important for us to consider prayer in general. I usually still define prayer the same way I learned about it way back in grade school: “prayer is the lifting of the mind and the heart and the soul to God.” Prayer, therefore, should be seen and understood as a “holy” thing — something that puts us into direct contact with God.
Prayer is not something “obligatory” — no more than telling your mom you love her, or saying thank you to your dad for his work and protection for your family. Prayer is the relationship that exists between us and God — dialogue, communication and conversation — God-talk. There are varieties of reasons for speaking with our parents, our siblings and our friends and associates, and various ways of addressing them in the contexts and situations of life. Speaking to God is very much the same. Our Blessed Lord, Jesus Christ, revealed God to us in the various Persons whom we have come to know as the Blessed Trinity: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each of us is invited to have a unique relationship with each Person of the Trinity.
Communication with each Person of the Trinity should begin with some recognition of the divinity of God, that is our prayer of praise. As we move more deeply into our communication with God — Father, Son or Holy Spirit — we become aware of God as the One, the Good, the True and the Beautiful. In this kind of thinking, we can, and usually do, become humble before God. Humility helps us to become aware of the good things that God has done for us. All that we have has come to us through no merit of our own, but from the kindness and generosity of God. St. Francis of Assisi reminds us that the only thing we can claim as our own are our sins — and, through reconciliation, even those have been taken from us and replaced with new life by God Himself through our Savior Jesus Christ.
Thanksgiving helps us to understand and contemplate the immeasurable love of God.
In humility, we come to discover gratitude. Gratitude, or thanksgiving, is a direct outpouring of God’s incredible grace. Thanksgiving helps us to understand and contemplate the immeasurable love of God. God loves us and sends His Son to us and the Son fills us with the Holy Spirit, by which we may praise God and give thanks for His life in us.
An attitude of gratitude is one by which we can recognize God’s goodness all around us and in each and every one of us. In the season of Thanksgiving, we all would do well to see the goodness of God all around us and give thanks to the One God, for He is Good and Holy and True and Beautiful!