11 Mar 2022

Lenten Devotional, Day 9, gratitude (episode 69)

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Everyday I begin my sit spot time by offering thanks. I haven’t explained how though. I’m not just rattling off whatever I am grateful for. I have a specific form of thanks that I have been doing for over twenty years. My model is an adaptation of a model I originally learned while on a wilderness education event. The school I attended received the original prayer model from a Native American elder named Jake Swamp of the Haudenosaunee people.

In it’s original form the person praying usually voices their gratitude to various aspects of creation.  My experience has been that this is not usually a deification of nature, but rather an expression of heartfelt kinship with the natural world. That said, I too feel deep connection to nature, but when I prayer my norm is to express gratitude to God for these various elements.

A biblical reflection of the thanksgiving address

One evening after I had know this model for sometime as I was doing my daily bible reading and I realized that Psalm 104 is a similar. Psalm 104 systematically acknowledges the full spectrum of what God has created. The Psalm doesn’t necessarily go into gratitude for these things, rather its almost more a contemplation of the wonder of what God has created.

If you want a very detailed explanation of this thanksgiving model and a glimpse into how I practice it, listen to today’s podcast above. I actually pulled from my vault a recording I created in 2010 to explain the method of prayer. I’ve embedded that original recording in the podcast.

A short synopsis of the model

For those of you who elect not to listen, here is a quick explanation of the method. In short, I give thanks for and acknowledge the benefits I receive from different aspects of nature and beyond. I do so in an orderly manner that is roughly organized vertically from the ground up. So, I give thanks for:

  • The earth
  • The waters and life in the waters over the earth
  • The plants
  • The animals
  • The trees
  • The birds
  • The weather elements: rain, wind, clouds, etc
  • The sun, moon, and stars
  • The people in my life
  • God and the spiritual reality we cannot see

In as much as I am able I try to acknowledge the connection between these elements, for example, how the earth and the waters feed the plants, or how trees provide shelter for the birds. I did not originally do that. But, I have noticed that when indigenous people prayer in this model they tend to not compartmentalize and neither does Psalm 104. For example, verses 10-12 read as follows,

“He makes the springs pour water into the ravines; it flows between the mountains. They give water to all the beast of the field, the wild donkeys quench their thirst. The birds of the sky nest by the waters; they sing among the branches.”

Notice how the psalmist expresses the interconnection of everything. This shouldn’t be a surprise. The Hebrew people were a tribal indigenous folk and David, presumably the author, had an astounding knowledge of the land.

If you try this practice, I would encourage you to not compartmentalize the elements even though I have listed them as bullet points. Like the Psalmist, try to voice the way God makes nature fit together.

Benefits of following the Thanksgiving Address Model

My experience has been that this type of prayer yields  beneficial changes, specifically:

  • Increased awareness of the natural world
  • Increased appreciation of just how intricately everything is connected together
  • Deeper empathy
  • Great awe and wonder at God as the Creator
  • Deeper appreciation and humility

I hope you will take time to listen to the podcast. My post is just a thumbnail sketch. The podcast offers tangible examples of the exact types of prayers I offer around each element. If you happen to try this model out for awhile, please share with me your experience.

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