Offer Prayers with Gratitude

Article excerpt

RECENTLY AT A liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, I heard a story of a kind we do not often hear in the western church. The preacher was a bishop of the Church in Albania, a church only lately emerged from decades of persecution meted out by a totalitarian government.

The readings included these words by Paul: "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Phillipians 4.6).

The bishop interpreted the phrase "with thanksgiving" to mean, not that thanksgiving was a third category after prayer and supplication, but rather that thanksgiving formed the context and underpinning of all prayer. So he told us a legend from his part of the world.

A Christian prince had among his courtiers a person of intelligence, competence and wisdom who accompanied him everywhere. What the prince admired most about him was his sense of gratitude to God and his belief that thanksgiving was the root of faithful life.

One day as the two were hunting, a strap on a saddle broke and needed repair. The courtier produced some tools and they began to work. As they worked, the courtier's hand slipped and he cut off the ends of two of the prince's fingers. Enraged, the prince had him imprisoned.

Sometime later the prince, hunting alone, trespassed on the hunting grounds of another prince, a "pagan" (to use the bishop's word). He was captured, brought to trial and sentenced to be sacrificed to the local god. …