Hymn of Thanksgiving

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The day I called for help, you heard me and you increased my strength. Psalm 138:3

The world is, and our own lives are, often fraught with tensions, fears and concerns of every kind. Whether these problems are real or imagined, they cause us great pain and frustration. For people of faith, who know that they are utterly dependent on grace, this is reason to go to prayer. Our most common form of prayer, it seems, is the prayer of petition, for we are always asking God for his help and aid in these circumstances. But Psalm 138 models another form of prayer to us, the prayer of Thanksgiving.

In this psalm by David, we see him filled with the recognition that God has been answering his prayers all along. He has been storming the heavens with his prayers of petition. He realizes in this psalm that all the troubles he has been surrounded by, all the importunings of his soul’s deepest needs, that he has been so desperately putting before God, have all been answered, in far greater ways than he could have imagined. He recognizes, in true humility, that God has been faithful and loving, that he has been listening, that he has always been stretching out his hands to save him and to aid him. And so it is with us.

When we, like David, come to realize this in the depths of our souls, when this truth overwhelms our egoes, and we are brought to our knees in true humility, by the recognition of God’s unconditional and infinite faithfulness and love for us, what else is there to do but to give joyous thanks. In this sense, the prayer of thanksgiving is the ultimate form of prayer.

St. Paul often begins and ends his letters in this attitude of thanksgiving. In 1 Thessalonians 5:18 he writes: “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” And in Colossians 4:2, “Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

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Dan Doyle is a husband, father, grandfather, Vietnam veteran, and retired professor of Humanities at Seattle University. He taught 13 years at the high school level and 22 years at the university level. He spends his time now babysitting his granddaughter. He is a poet and a blogger as well. Dan holds an AA degree in English Literature, a BA in Comparative Literature, and an MA in Theology, and writes regularly for The Veterans Site blog.