Prayers of a Lesser Thanks?

Are comparison prayers-could be worse, at least it’s not- a lesser kind of thanks?


On their backs, our thanks resound?
No! (We won’t boss Mack around.) 
Well, maybe for a chance, 
To boost our prayer stance,
Just enough to get thanks off the ground!

Beware of comparison thanks, I told the ladies. Our life group topic was, yes, gratitude. My shower that morning was lukewarm, spit it out, tepid. So I prayed a Yertle prayer. I thanked God that at least it wasn’t ice-cold. 

Even as I shared it, my example it didn’t sit well. In my lap. These prayers never do.

Like, Thank you God, that:

  • My kids aren’t as ___ (wild, rude, fragile) as hers. 
  • My husband doesn’t play video games like hers.
  • At least my wife doesn’t go shopping as much as his.
  • Even though the quiver’s not full, at least I’ve got one, while some have none. 
  • Even though the car was totaled, the injuries weren’t worse. 

Yertle prayers don’t often sit well. Maybe it’s because they remind me of the old adage, “I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.”

But haven’t you wondered about the man with no feet? Was he thankful? Is he still crying?

Do you wonder the gratitude invoked by could be worse comparisons is of the same quality as, say, Job’s, The Lord give, and the Lord takes. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Or David’s,  I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples, offered as he hid from Saul in a cave.

Still, who among us hasn’t prayed one of these? Thank you Lord, that least I have a warm house, a loving family, good health, freedom to worship in public. That my woes are so very first world. 

But they leave a funny aftertaste. What if my shower was ice cold? If work was dull, with no benefits? If the quiver is empty? If I was one of 60,000 starving in the Yida, South Sudan refugee camp? If malaria and malnutrition, without home and family are your lot? What then?  

There’s the rub. Yertle prayers leave an aftertaste because, maybe, they aren’t totally pure. They’re relative, contingent. Maybe a lesser thanks?

Guess what? It’s a fallen world. We grow weak and we see dimly. Motives are mixed. But, hallelujah! We have a gracious God. And sometimes comparing is the boost triggers a truly thankful heart. I think He can sympathize with prayers that aren’t 100% pure. We don’t, after all, have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

Since my “Beware of comparison prayer,” alert I’m rethinking. I’d love to read your comments, too. I think I wouldn’t be so wary. Here’s why. 
  1. Thanking God is good.  It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name O Most High (Psalm 92:2). Just plain good. 
    • Because we magnify Him with thanksgiving (Psalm 69:30), and
    • Because it’s God’s will, and that’s always good (1 Thessalonians 5:18). 
    • Because He commands thanksgiving (Colossians 3:15, Psalm 50:14), and 
    • Because thanksgiving guards our hearts and minds and brings peace (Philippians 4:5-7). 
    • And if that’s not enough, because thanking God is the very business of heaven (Revelation 11:16-17). 

2.  Thanking God is good, even if it means comparing. (As long as it’s not self-exalting, self-righteous, smuggery.)

As far as I can find, there’s only one biblical example of bad thanksgiving. You remember it. Jesus told the parable to some who trusted in themselves, and treated others with contempt. (Luke 18:9-14)

Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.


3. Thanking God is good. (As long as it’s not contingent on a physical set standard; as long as we adjust along the way.)

What I mean is this: Will thanking God that my boys’ are having school success in elementary school, be able to translate to thanks if they forgo college ten years from now?  And if my lukewarm shower is a cold shower after my next run?

Will thanking God in my 30’s that I can say, run for an hour without pain, translate to thanking him in the next decade (or day) that I can, walk to the mailbox with pain? And one day, if I’m unable to leave my bed, what then?

Where will I stand then to launch my thanks to the God?

Through [Jesus] whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. 

Romans 5:2 
The same place as I am now.  This grace.
How about there?