There is a morning devotional that begins, “O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will proclaim your praise” (Psalm 51: 15), to which the response comes, “Thank you, God.” The practice made me think about the difference between praise and thanksgiving.
When I asked a friend about the difference, her immediate reply was a felt sense or body awareness: “With praise, my hands are raised, my head is up, and my mouth is open. With thanksgiving, my head is bowed and my hands are in a prayer position at my heart.”
Thanksgiving is a wonderful practice. A woman I know begins the day with her partner—sipping a cup of coffee, eating a bowl of oatmeal, and naming things for which they are grateful. I have benefited from ending my day looking back over it to see the things for which I am thankful. Often they are things that I would have forgotten about without that reflection time. And I’m convinced that reflecting like that before I go to sleep makes me more likely to wake up cheerful the next day.
Giving thanks makes us aware that all that comes our way is not of our own making. There is someone or something bigger. Praise lets us focus on that source of goodness and grace. Praise involves acknowledging and rejoicing in what underlies all things. It arises out of faith and trust, not comprehension. Praise takes us out of ourselves and into oneness. For me, praise can be helpful even when I am doubting or discouraged, because it takes me into something beyond myself. When we praise God, we find our true proportion.
How do you understand thanksgiving and praise? If one is harder or less comfortable than the other, what is the difference for you?
How do you want to express thankfulness or praise at this time?
“Praise and thanksgiving let everyone sing. To our Creator for every good thing. Alleluia, joyfully sing.”
For further reflection:
“O sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. . . . For great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.” (See Psalm 96.)
“I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God all my life long.” (See Psalm 146.)