Gratitude may be the simplest of the spiritual disciplines, but I believe it to be the most powerful, because its practice brings one to the feet of God so much faster and surer than any Bible study, meditation, contemplation, journaling or other prayer practice. The simple act of writing down every night for fifteen straight months what I am grateful for in that day has brought me an immense appreciation of what God means to me, joy, patience and a heart overwhelmed with love.
At first I was doing an assignment(that I had assigned myself, I thought) of noting what I was grateful for whether I was tired or sick or interested in doing something else. I was part of a group with the same assignment, but when the group ended twelve weeks later, I kept up the gratitude journal. One paragraph a night, sometimes long and sometimes short, has focused my attention on God like nothing else has done.
Somewhere in that year plus, I set an intention to have a grateful heart and to be present in every moment. Later I prayed often, “My whole life is yours, Lord.” Now tears of gratitude come as if God has willed them, when I least expect them. My heart has broken open to others’ pain and suffering in deeper and deeper ways.
I have morning practices as well: a lectionary reading from the Bible, freewriting, and sitting quietly in God’s Presence, as well as a short ritual welcoming the day, but they are enhanced greatly by the practice of gratitude. Maybe gratitude knits the other practices into a whole piece and makes sense of them beyond the understanding of my conditioned mind. Whatever. I am content, thanks to the practice of gratitude.