In Judaism, gratitude is a vital component of worship andpermeates every aspect of the worshiper's daily life. In theHebrew Scriptures, the poetry of the Psalms is saturated withthanksgiving to God: "O LORD my God, I will give thanks toyou forever "(30:12) and "I will give thanks to the LORD withmy whole heart "(9:1).
The day starts with the Shema, which begins: "You shalllove the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all yoursoul, and with all your might "(Deuteronomy 6:5). Theconcluding prayer, the 'alenu, thanks God for the particulardestiny of the Jewish people.
Thankfulness for everything is appropriate in Judaismbecause all things come from God in the Hebrew world view; therefore, Jewish life is filled with this recognition. A prayer is said upon hearing good or bad news, and God is praised for everything. In this way,a divine perspective on life is maintained.
Gratitude has always been central among Christian virtuesand appears in classical and modern devotional writings aswell as in the Old and New Testaments. In Christian gratitude, God is the giver of all gifts and the ultimate foundation for thankfulness. There is a feeling of indebtedness to the Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. God 's generosity provides the model for how Christians are to deal with theirown children and with each other.
Jonathan Edwards, the 17-century revivalistpreacher and theologian, described two types of gratitude inhis classic work, "A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections." Hedescribed these two types as natural gratitude and as a gracious or spiritual gratitude. Natural gratitude is thanks expressed to God for the benefits a person has received, whereas gracious gratitude has its source in the knowledge of the goodness of God independent of favors received.
Emanuel Swedenborg explained that angels in heavenperceived the gratefulness of worshipers as the sweet odor ofincense, such as frankincense, and that this was received asprayer. This is also called the "prayer of saints "and explainsthe meaning of the passage, "Let my prayer be counted asincense before you "(Psalm 141:2).
In response to questions from Pharisees about the greatest commandment, Jesus replied: "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: 'You shall love your neighbor asyourself.' On these two commandments hang all the law andthe prophets " (Matthew 22:37-40). These statements indicate both gratitude to our Creator and thankfulness to others demonstrated by our loving actions toward them.
The Holy Koran,which is divided into chapters called suras,repeatedly asserts the necessity for gratitude and thankfulness to God. For example, in Sura Fourteen it is written: "If you are grateful, I will give you more "(14:7). A traditional Islamic saying states, "The first who will be summoned to paradise are those who have praised God in every circumstance." The prophet Muhammad also said, "Gratitude for the abundance you have received is the best insurance that the abundance will continue." True gratitude, it is taught, draws more abundant graces upon the believer.
The performance of the daily Islamic prayers is considered to be one of the "pillars " of the religion. The essence of the prayer is not to ask nor petition God, but to show everlasting praise and adoration to God for life and mercy.
Another pillar of Islam is fasting during the month ofRamadan. This period is intended to lead believers to a stateof gratitude. "He wants you to complete the prescribedperiod and glorify him that He has guided you, and perchanceye shall be grateful "(Koran,2:185).
In Sufism, the mystical tradition of Islam, entire bookchapters have been devoted to developing gratitude.Different stages of gratitude are explained: the first isgratitude for the gifts received from God, as we would begrateful for any gift; a higher state is attained when onebecomes grateful for not receiving gifts or for beingdelayed in having a hope fulfilled. In this state one sees theblessings that are veiled in affliction. The final state ofgratitude is recognizing that no amount of worship issufficient to express gratitude to the Creator and that evenfeelings of gratitude are a gift from God. There is gratitudefor the capacity to feel grateful.