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A Practical Way to Grow in Your Relationship with God

510 S. Farwell St., Eau Claire WI 54701 • 715.835.3734 Map to the Cathedral

A Practical Way to Grow in Your Relationship with God:  Develop a Daily Habit

~Fr. Michael

If you have read any of my reflections in the Spirit in the past five years, or perhaps hear one of my sermons, you will very likely have heard me talk about thanksgiving and gratitude.  This is because I believe that a life of giving thanks is fundamental and appropriate human response to the grace of God.  If you’ve come to me for spiritual guidance or come to pray the Daily Office at the Cathedral, or maybe even attended a Cursillo retreat, you’ve probably heard me talk about the need for us followers of Jesus to take on a ‘Rule of Life’.  Now, sometimes, people hear that phrase and suppose that the Church is asking for an impossible amount of our time and attention, but that does not need to be the case.  How much time you spend on it doesn’t really matter, the important part is that it’s regular.  Even just a short prayer, if it’s worked into a daily habit, can become quite a powerful force in your life.  Like exercise, and a healthy diet, a daily habit of prayer has a cumulative effect — helping to build your spiritual and inner life a little bit each day.  People who work to do this faithfully often find not just better inner balance, but that it makes a difference in their physical lives and in their relationship as well.

Here, with a little help from some monk friends,  is a practical approach to growing a rule of life, beginning with just a short set of habits about saying ‘thank you’ every day.  Gratitude, like any other spiritual practice, is something we do, not just something we feel or think about. Like everything we do, we need to practice in order to get better at it. To practice gratitude, you don’t need a special mat to sit on, or an outfit, or an upgrade to your technology, or for things to be ‘just so’ before you start, you just need a minute or two.  What is enough is here and now. The Psalm verse, “This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Ps 118: 24); taking some moments to offer thanks and gratitude consecrates our life and makes us real, because it makes us really available to the real presence of Christ, who is at work within us and around us – now.  Try it for a day.  Maybe more…


Waking up: Pray your gratitude.

“How shall I repay the LORD for all the good things He has done for me?” (Ps 116:10).
Start with gratitude. First thing in the morning is a great time to begin.  In just one or two of those moments you take for yourself every morning, let your imagination run a short list of things you are grateful for in your life.  Some of them may be obvious at first:  coffee (thank God for coffee), a hot shower, a new day, the people you will share this day with.  It certainly doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list, but do your best to be genuine in your gratitude and not snarky.  After a few days, you may start to notice the list changes, or perhaps some things on it stay the same every day.  Before you ask God for anything, say thank you for one thing or many things.

During the day: Listen for gratitude.

People you meet will say thank you to you today. Let them. (This can be a hard one!) It can be simply a polite encounter with a stranger, an intense meeting at work, or a casual conversation with a friend or family member.  They need to speak their gratitude; you need to hear it. Accept their thanks and let it nourish your spirit.  Respond to them, “You are welcome,” and mean it. And keep your ears open to hear God’s gratitude for you. There is no one else like you, and God – believe it or not – is immensely grateful for who you are and all the good that you do.  If you listen, you will find God’s gratitude even when people fail to be gracious.

In the evening: Express your gratitude to others.

People are easily taken for granted. Again this is true of strangers and intimate friends alike.  We take the shop clerk’s work for granted, we take the efforts of our family members for granted.  Take a moment each evening to find a way to express your gratitude to someone else.  You’ll change their day, perhaps change their life, by expressing your gratitude for who they are and what they do.  This activity tends to be contagious, and you may find that once per evening doesn’t feel like enough.  Listen to your heart as it tells you to be gracious and grateful to another.  Stop throughout the day and thank someone. Make an unexpected phone-call to say thank you for something that happened, even long ago. A handwritten note can be especially powerful.

At bedtime: Savor your life in gratitude.

Before you settle into your last routines of the day, or perhaps even as your head sinks into the pillow, take time to remember and reclaim what is good in your life. Gratitude means saying “Yes” to the life you’ve been given, to the hand you’ve been dealt. Accept the good gifts of life that actually are there, and let go of resentment for what is not there, or no longer there. Complete this day of your life by remembering and appreciating what has been good today.