Why “Please and Thank You” – Psalm 136
Too often, my prayers feel like some type of massive to-do list, with items that I need the Almighty God to check off before I present Him with more grandiose requests. Some of the most common verbs used in my prayers/to do-lists are please, help, do, heal, work, speak, give…and the list goes on.
I’m sure a lot of women pray this way. I’m sure a lot of men pray this way too. But, the thing is, I didn’t grow up praying this way. Every time we sat down to pray (which was every single time we ate, no matter how hungry we were), my dad thanked the Lord for our health, for our strength, for safe travels, for food, and the list goes on. It was only after giving thanks for our blessings that my dad would bring our requests before God; after, not before; after, not in place of.
As I read Psalm 136, we are commanded to give thanks to God. I find it rather humbling that the Psalmist felt the need to remind us that God’s love endures forever in every single verse of the psalm. It’s like he knew we’d forget it just as quickly as we read it. As verse one explains:
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
I think that too often, I read that verse and nod, thinking, “Yup, He’s good. His love endures forever.” A familiar praise song might even float through the recesses of my mind. And, almost every time, I dismiss it quickly as I move onto my all too important to-do list that I need to remind God about.
Let’s stop and think about this verse for a bit. First, we are to give thanks. It’s kind of sad that we have one holiday all year that we are required to focus on our gratitude (at sometimes awkward family gatherings, no less), and then our focus shifts back to our lists, back to ourselves. In order to live a fruitful life that truly sees the Lord’s work, I believe we need to live lives of gratitude—not just one day of gratitude. Plus, it’s really hard to feel ungrateful when you have a massive feast and pumpkin pie to look forward to, isn’t it?
So, after the verse says to “give thanks,” it gives the reasoning behind giving thanks. Why would we give thanks to God? He is good—for His steadfast love endures forever. Because His love is never ending, never failing, always enduring, He is a good God. He can stand behind His love and say, “Look at My Love. It is always here. It never ends. That is why I am good. That is why you can trust Me. That is why I am worthy of your praise.”
I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to rip up my to-do list and just sit in awe of God’s presence. So often, in my day-to-day life, I look to things that I think will be unfailing in their love for me. I look to my husband; I look to the J.Crew catalog; I try to fill up on so many idols that I think will make me feel safe and secure and loved, but none of them come close, because all of them will fail me. Even though it’s not Thanksgiving, let’s give thanks, shall we? Today, and always. Instead of please, help, do, heal, work, speak, give, I’m going to try and infiltrate my prayers with thank you.
Christina Vinson is a freelance writer in Nashville, Tennessee, where she writes everything from back cover copy to magazine features to country music news. In her free time, you can find her baking sweet treats in the kitchen, scouring the shelves at the library, or searching for the city’s best queso. You can view her writing website here.