“Stop and smell the roses.”
That is one cliché most of us know. In most clichés there is a kernel of truth. That’s why they become popular expressions. We assume that stopping and smelling roses refers to taking the time to enjoy life but in the context of grateful prayer, it may also strongly relate to how we express our gratitude to God.
Thanking God is something we all should do but sometimes it seems we find time to do everything but thank Him. When I call for prayer concerns in my Sunday school class, the list of prayers for the sick is long but the list of praises is often short. When I read a book of prayers, the book is often filled with prayers about common problems; there are few prayers of thankfulness. When I pray, I suspect I am like a lot of people; I ask God to help me tackle my problems. I don’t give Him credit for all the problems He has already resolved.
Why is this?
Maybe it truly is the fact that we need to “stop and smell the roses”. W. Bingham Hunter says that it could be the pace of life that keeps us from being grateful. Life is hectic and we just don’t take the time to reflect on our blessings. We are so busy that we don’t even take the time to examine how we spend our time.
First of all, gratefulness centers on the thoughtful evaluation of what is important to each of us. How many of us stop long enough to appreciate what we have? Instead, it is almost like someone else is controlling us as we put off expressing thankfulness because we are too busy pursuing complex agendas. There is no time for appreciation because we are rapidly moving on to the next thing.
To pursue gratefulness, it takes a commitment of time. Not only do we have to find time to think about what we appreciate, we have to find private time to pray to God about what He has given us. Too many of us have the philosophy that “Christian busyness is next to Godliness” [Hunter, 115]. Prayer time is sacrificed for doing anything but prayer. I know it is an old complaint, but how many hours do we devote to watching television, playing computer games, or surfing the web? Could that time be spent in prayer? Of course it could, grateful prayer at that.
Hunter states that thoughtful consideration of busyness is the key. Why do we have to do so much? Are we busy because we are letting our lights shine before other men or are we hustling through life to draw attention to ourselves or maybe we are just struggling to keep pace with our contemporaries? Keeping up with the Joneses applies not only to houses and cars; it can also apply to busy agendas.
Sometimes we can’t even get to the roses because we are never around them. If we never see them, how can we smell them? What Hunter is talking about here is the fact that we don’t take the time to explore God’s natural beauty. He goes even further by saying, “gratitude eludes us because the ugliness of life around us makes it difficult to remember God’s gifts” [Hunter, 115]. We love our air conditioning, we love our television sets and we love our computers so we stay indoors and we don’t explore the beach, the mountains, or even that hiking trail right down the road. Many Christians don’t take the time to catch a fish or touch a flower. “It is hard to find God in the concrete, steel and plastic in which modern man lives, moves and has his being” [Hunter, 115].
If we are lucky enough to get outside, pause and look around. See the flowers in the yard, watch the beautiful horse run through the field, enjoy that hawk flying through the sky and the sun going down in a blaze of red and bright purple. What man creates can be fascinating but what God has made is truly miraculous.
We need a reminder that God is worthy of praise and thanksgiving. Devoting time to thanking Him is important. Paying attention to the blessings that He has given us makes us aware of His working in our lives. Looking for God’s work in our environment gets us out of ourselves; we can see His touch on the world and it is a beautiful touch if we would just look.
Our time on earth goes quickly, the structures of man do not last but God is forever.
Before our time is past, we need to open our eyes and see His work…
And thank Him…