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How to Have a Grateful Heart

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A few years ago, I wrote a short post about having a month of gratitude in November. While the ideas I shared are a great place to start, sometimes I think we need to push ourselves in the gratitude department! And I think that might be especially true this year. So let’s look at how to make gratitude a habit all year round, not just during the month of Thanksgiving!

Why You Need a Grateful Heart

It’s easy to look up reasons for practicing gratitude. There are hundreds – probably tens of thousands – of pages on the Internet about this practice. But as Christians, we always want to be sure we are choosing God’s way in everything.

How to Make Gratitude a Habit

Not that the reasons you’ll find for practicing gratitude are worthless – they’re not! Gratitude can increase your happiness, your health, improve your relationships, advance your career, even help build your bank account! These are all good things.

But the question isn’t “Are these good?” The question is, “Why does God want me to be grateful?” And for that answer, we turn to the Bible.

What the Bible Says About Gratitude

make gratitude a habit
  • First, our gratitude is rooted in our salvation in Jesus Christ (Colossians 2:6-7). What greater reason for being thankful and grateful is there? We have been redeemed from sin and released from its punishment. Eternity will be too short to express our gratitude for that priceless gift!
  • Second, our gratitude is based on the nature of God. He is good, loving, and righteous. His plans are always accomplished, and His lovingkindness is eternal (Psalm106:1; 118:29; 138:2; Isaiah 25:1).
  • Third, our gratitude is a reflection of the awareness of all that God has done and is continuing to do for us and in us (Psalm 9:1; 79:13; 118:21; 139:14;1 Corinthians 15:57; 2 Thessalonians 2:13).
  • Fourth, our gratitude glorifies the Father throughout the world as we point to Him as the source of blessings and accomplishments (Psalm 105:1; Isaiah 12:4; 2 Corinthians 2:14).
  • Finally, our gratitude is a choice that recognizes we are incapable of living victoriously apart from our precious Savior (Psalm 86:12; Ephesians 5:4, 20; Philippians 4:6; Colossians 3:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:18).

This list is not exhaustive. There are many more reasons we need to be practicing gratitude as a daily habit. But it is certainly a good place to start! I encourage you to take the time to read the verses included, meditate on them, and pray them back to the Lord as you establish a habit of gratitude.

How to Start a Creating a Grateful Heart

Start With a Trigger

Starting any new habit can be a challenge. It is no different with the habit of gratitude. What you need is a ‘trigger.’ Something that reminds you to be grateful.

What trigger works for you will probably be different than what works for me or someone else. I encourage you to start with one of the suggestions below. If those triggers don’t help, search for more ideas, ask friends, or pray for wisdom from God. He’s good at answering prayers for wisdom!

A list of gratitude triggers to try:

  • Your morning alarm
  • A noon reminder on your phone
  • Just after dropping the last child at daycare or school
  • When starting a new load of laundry
  • Before eating a meal
  • After your devotional reading – write one sentence in a journal
  • Before turning on the TV
  • While loading the dishwasher
  • Just before pulling into the driveway after work
  • As you lay down for bed at night
  • At a meaningful personal time each day (for example, 1:05 PM every day because that was when your precious Grandmother entered Jesus’ presence)

Try Writing it Down

I’m fond of journals. I think there is power in writing our thoughts down. The process of writing (not typing!) forces us to think about what we are writing. To zero in on what is going on inside our heads in a way that the daily hustle of life seldom allows.

This is in some ways even more true when it comes to gratitude. Taking just a few seconds or even an entire minute to write a sentence of gratitude can focus your thoughts on actually being grateful, not just checking something off your to-do list.

If you’re out shopping, at work, running errands, or playing chauffeur, this can be more challenging. But you can easily find small notebooks to keep in your purse, desk, or car for writing down your words of thanksgiving.

An added benefit of writing your daily gratitude reminders is that over time you will be able to look back and see God’s hand at work in ways you might otherwise forget. Noticing what God is doing in your life, and then thanking Him for it, opens the door to ever more blessings!

Practice gratitude daily

Don’t Go to Bed

Finally, make a promise to yourself and to the Lord that you will not go to bed without writing down at least one item of thanks for each day. More is always nice – but don’t stress yourself. Some days are just hard. If all you can offer is one sacrifice of thanksgiving (Psalm 50:14; 23), God is still honored.

I urge you to get a small notebook today and set it with a pen or pencil right beside your bed. Start tonight writing one short prayer of gratitude to the Lord. He loves you. He loves to bless you. But He doesn’t like to be ignored! Give the Father all the thanks He deserves.

Gratitude Empowers Your Prayer Life

Gratitude is an essential part of a vibrant prayer life. But it should never be just a part of your prayer life. Practicing gratitude throughout the day can help you to focus on the goodness of God when you enter His presence in a dedicated time of prayer.

If you struggle with other aspects of prayer besides gratitude, I highly encourage you to use a prayer journal. I have used a prayer journal off and on over many years. And the special thing about a prayer journal is that it can change as your needs change.

Some years I had only a small notebook I wrote everything in and used as a reminder to pray. Other times, I have had bigger notebooks that included notes I’ve learned about praying or verses on prayer I want to meditate on.

The important part is to have a tool that can help you pray more specifically, intentionally, and consistently.

If you feel you could use a bit more guidance in using a prayer journal, I encourage you to check out the 20 Ways to Pray Journal. It’s just a tool, but it might be the right tool for you during this season of your life.

Make gratitude a daily habit

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