There are many different forms of prayer.
Perhaps the one we are most familiar with and most associate with prayer is “intercessory prayer”. When we are interceding before God we are asking Him to meet one of our needs or the needs of a loved one. It is this form of prayer that we see in today’s gospel when the lepers approach Jesus asking to be healed.
There is also the prayer of thanksgiving - giving thanks for everything that God has done for us. That is the prayer of the Samaritan in today’s gospel who comes back to find Jesus and falls at His feet grateful to have been relieved of the disease which had kept him from his family for so many years.
The prayer of gratitude is very pleasing to Jesus. When we say “thank you” to him, we are acknowledging that every good gift we have comes from Him. We recognize that, without Him, we are nothing.
Jesus tells us that unless we become like children, we cannot enter the Kingdom of God. To be child-like, we must be thankful. Sons and daughters understand that everything they have comes from their parents. Whenever they need something - whether it be food, money or a ride - they know to go to their parents. Children have confidence in their parents whatever circumstances they are in. A good child knows enough to thank His parents and not take them for granted. Even though they can rely on them for anything and everything, they still say “thank you” and take any opportunity to show their gratitude.
As sons and daughters of God, we must be people of gratitude. We can go to our Heavenly Father with whatever needs we have. There is nothing which is beyond the power of our God. Because He loves us as tenderly as parents love their children, we can be confident that He will take care of us. However, like children, we often do not know what we need. What we think would be good for us may be harmful and what we think is harmful may be good.
For this reason, we entrust all our needs to our Heavenly Father with absolute trust. If He answers our prayers in a way we like, we thank Him. However, if things do not work out the way we would like, we continue to thank Him. Like children, we place all our confidence in our Heavenly Father. In all circumstances we praise Him, knowing that He makes all things work to the good for those who love Him.
This is why the prayer of thanksgiving pleases Jesus - because it gives us a child-like heart.
The prayer of thanksgiving also keeps us humble.
Jesus tells us that God brings down the mighty and exalts the lowly. If we are to be pleasing to God we must be humble. The proud think that they are the source of their own good fortune. Rather than acknowledge that others have helped them, they want to take sole credit for their own successes. They forget that, without God, they would not even exist.
Humble people, on the other hand, recognize that whatever they achieve is only possible through the help of others, particularly God. When we raise up to God a prayer of thanksgiving, we are acknowledging that every good thing in our life is a result of His loving kindness to us. Any prosperity, health or well-being we may enjoy are not rewards we are entitled to. Rather they are gifts that are freely given to us by our Heavenly Father. When we say “thank you” we grow in humility by admitting that God deserves the glory and not we.
That is why the prayer of thanksgiving pleases Jesus - because it makes us humble.
The prayer of thanksgiving also pleases Jesus because it is good for our souls and good for our peace of mind.
Too many times we fall into negative attitudes. The weight of the world seems to be leaning on us and we want to hide. Around us, all we see is danger and threats. Everything looks bleak.
When we being to raise our hands in a prayer of thanksgiving, however, everything changes. We being to focus on what is good in our lives, not on what is bad. We find the positive in all circumstances rather than just dwelling on the negative. The darkness that saps our energy and diminishes our confidence is scattered by the light of optimism and hope. When we say “thank you” to God in all circumstances, we are reminded that He is in control and that He will not abandon us.
Jesus came so that we might have an abundant life and enjoy peace of mind and spirit. The prayer of gratitude pleases Jesus because it restores us to a spirit of calm and joy.
The word “Eucharist” itself means “thanksgiving”. Like the Samaritan in today’s gospel, we gather here today to give thanks. God has done great things for us. Calling it to mind constantly, no matter how bleak things may get, will give us a child-like spirit full of humility and marked by peace of mind. No matter how difficult the challenges of our lives may get, there is one gift we can always count on - the presence of Jesus in His Body and Blood offered every Sunday and every day on this altar.
As people of gratitude, let us ran to Jesus, like the Samaritan in today’s gospel, offering a prayer of thanksgiving and begin to live in a spirit of optimism, faith and joy.