Prayers of want vs prayers of thanks
As Catholics we have grown up using prayers handed down from our parents or others we emulate. All these, as long as they bring God into the reflection, are good and the meaning can be a strong efficacy towards our devotions.
However, as powerful prayers of petition are at times they may become too over-bearing when all we do is ask without showing thanks to the one whom our prayers are directed.
An old priest once said, during his homily, that the baskets during the offertory and rising to God contained requests of needs in one basket which was overflowing while the basket marked thanks was nearly empty. Sadly, that often is the case with too many prayers that bombard God.
Jesus told us to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Mt. 7: 7-8). None of these places thanks ahead of the desires of human needs, but brings the “Dependence on God” (Mt. 6: 25 ff). several verses before this narrative as part of the teaching from the Sermon on the Mount.
The perspective is we always need to ask, seek, and knock. However, we must never lose sight of how important thanksgiving is to God. “I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.” (Mt. 12: 25-27). Throughout the gospel accounts Jesus is shown giving thanks to his Father especially at the Last Supper. Jesus spent many hours by himself away from his disciples in commune with his Father. He never hesitated to first give thanks.
My take on the prayer before meals has opened to me a more appropriate direction and it goes like this; “Lord, we give you all the praise and glory today and thank you for the many blessings you have given to those we pray for. We ask for your Grace through Jesus Christ, Amen!” I also use the same prayer as the final thanks to God before falling asleep.
There is nothing wrong when some use the old “Bless us O Lord for these thy gifts……..etc. It just doesn’t work for me when thanksgiving should be a 24/7 routine.
Ralph B. Hathaway, December 2021