Every year, my daughters’ preschool teacher pulls the children aside individually and asks an important question:
What are you thankful for?
As a mom, I’ve grown accustomed to the tradition. The week of Thanksgiving, I can check the bulletin board outside of the classroom and see what crazy thing popped out of my child’s mouth in that one moment with her teacher.
I think I’ve only ever had one year where a daughter was thankful for me.
Mostly, they’ve been thankful for loose teeth or funny things their dad does or some toy that I never see them actually play with. Last year, my girl was thankful for her stuffed animals.
Thanksgiving tends to highlight what’s important to us, usually family and friends more than toys, but still we’re motivated to be grateful at least one month, or week, or day out of the year.
Some of us start Thanksgiving journals and gratitude lists. Others post daily Facebook status updates of what we’re thankful for this year.
We’re sincerely excited to acknowledge the blessing and it’s beautiful in its season.
One of the things I love about my little girl, though, is that she isn’t just thankful for stuffed animals when the teacher pulls her aside for the annual preschool Thanksgiving assignment.
Every single time she prays, she begins with, “Dear God, thank You for this day.”
Mealtime prayers, bedtime prayers, prayers in June or in December, if it starts with “Dear God” and ends with “Amen,” she’s thankful for the day she’s had. Time-outs, sadness, fights with her sisters, none of that can mar her thankful heart.
I’m reminded of Daniel, who prayed in a similar way in Babylon. Despite exile far from his beloved Jerusalem and his family, despite political intrigue and plots against him, despite religious persecution and antisemitism, still Daniel prayed.
And he didn’t just plead and petition God for help in the midst of sorrow or stress.
He “knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days” (Daniel 6:10)
He prayed on his knees. Three times a day. Every day. Not so everyone could see, but in a manner people could notice if they chose to look his way.
And he “gave thanks.”
That’s why King Darius knew there was hope for Daniel even after he was shut up in a darkened den of ravenous lions and locked in overnight.
The King trusted in the God “whom you serve continually” (Daniel 6:16, 6:20) and his trust was not misplaced.
Daniel’s faithful, day in and day out, no matter what the circumstances, continual determination to get down on his knees and give thanks to God was blessed in that moment. God sent the angel to slam shut the jaws of the lions until Daniel could be lifted out of the pit unscathed.
It might seem that the miracle was the reason to give thanks, and that’s what King Darius did, issuing a proclamation of praise to the “Living God” of Daniel.
But Daniel had been giving thanks all along.
Thanksgiving is over this year. We’ve feasted and visited family and friends. We’ve probably thought and even shared what we’re thankful for this year.
But I don’t want to just be a once-a-year grateful girl.
I want to be thankful for this day and the next and the one after that, regardless of the circumstances or annoyances or even fears.
I want to make it a discipline and attitude and habit of mind and heart to give thanks to God, maybe three times a day, maybe 20 times a day.
I want people to refer to my God as the one “whom I serve continually,” not periodically, or seasonally, or around the holidays.
When they see the lions’ den, I want people to know my God can rescue and deliver.
If that’s our true desire, then our first step is today. When everyone else has finished the annual mantra of thanks and the turkey is reduced to leftovers and others have moved on to Christmas lists and shopping, we make a choice to be thankful.
Today we choose to pause and give praise, give specific thanks, notice God at work and drop our head for a whispered moment of gratefulness. We choose to look past the obvious and the bothersome or scary, to see reasons to thank Him “for this day” every…single…day of the year to come.
Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader. Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness. Her book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, is available now! To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.
Copyright © 2013 Heather King