How to Use the Psalms for Your Gratitude Journal
By Sarah Frazer, Crosswalk.com
The month of November is typically the month we set aside to give thanks to God. With thanksgiving being the third Thursday of the month, this makes sense. When we think about “giving,” we think of gifts and offerings. These are free and don’t cost the receiver anything. They do, however, cost the giver something. Our gift to God might cost us something. We might have to sacrifice time, we might have to stop what we are doing or rearrange our priorities. When we think about giving “thanks,” it means to express gratitude or appreciation.
Why do we give thanks? God has given us a myriad of reasons, and we can name a few right away. What if we, instead of just giving thanks for the usual things, began to give thanks like the psalmists in the Bible? The authors of the book of Psalms help draw our hearts to God because they use the language of imagery and poetry to give thanks.
Maybe today you find it hard to even think about giving thanks. You can list things like a house or job, but when it comes to specific things, it is easier sometimes to think about what we are missing than what we already have. That’s why I love using the book of Psalms to help guide my heart. The psalmists do not sugarcoat life. They understand that hard situations and heartbreaking grief are a part of our lives. Yet even in the midst of this, we can still give thanks.
How to Use the Psalms
The Psalms is a guidebook. We all need some help every once in a while, and the Bible is more than just a book of dos and don’ts. It is more than just a book of stories. The Bible tells us about ourselves, but more than that, it tells us about God. One of the best places to look, especially if you are new to reading your Bible, is the Psalms.
If you want to know who God is and what He has done for you, you will find it here. They also offer a way to express our heartaches, but always point us to the truth. How can we use this to give thanks? Use these steps along with the book of Psalms to give thanks.
1. Read through one chapter. Maybe you can highlight in your Bible or mark in your journal the verses that stand out to you.
2. Meditate on the characteristics of God you see in that chapter. Try to answer the question, “Who is God?” What names do the Psalmist use for God? You can look in a Bible dictionary or online to figure out the meanings of some of these names.
3. Underline or write down what God does in this psalm. Answer the question, “What is God doing or has done or promises to do?” Sometimes the author will remember what God has done in the past, or he will sing about what God promises to do in the future. Write down some of these things.
4. Notice what the author’s response is in this chapter. In almost every psalm, there is a human response to God’s actions or character. Record that.
5. Give thanks because of these things. Revisit God’s character and actions. Pray and tell God thanks for who He is and what He is doing.
Example of Giving Thanks
Here is an example of these steps in put into practice! Let’s go through Psalm 13. First, we read the Psalm.
How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and day after day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?
Look on me and answer, Lord my God.
Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death,
and my enemy will say, “I have overcome him,”
and my foes will rejoice when I fall.
But I trust in your unfailing love;
my heart rejoices in your salvation.
I will sing the Lord’s praise,
for he has been good to me.
Next, we meditate on the aspects of God’s character we see in this Psalm. We will answer the question, “Who is God?” It says God is our “Lord,” meaning our Master. This implies that He takes care of us. Next, we make note of what God is doing in this psalm. At first, it seems as if God has forgotten the author. He is afraid God will not rescue him, and the enemy will triumph over him. He counters this thought when he says that God will answer and look on him (Psalm 13:3) God also loves him and saves him (Psalm 13:5) Not only that, God has already been good to him (Psalm 13:6)
Our response is next. We take the name of God, Lord, and tell our hearts God is our Master who cares for us. Next, we remember that God has already saved us from our sins, and He has shown His love for us. Not only that, we see that the author describes God’s love as “unfailing.” This means it will never fail. God’s love will never run out, nor will it ever be diminished because of our circumstances.
We see that our response to our own circumstances can mirror that of the psalmist. We can trust and rejoice in God’s love and salvation. Not only does He save us from our sins, but God has also loved us and will always love us. Even though our lives might be filled with sorrow and feelings of hurt, we can rejoice and sing praise to God because he has been good to us.
Which Psalms to Use
Although we could use any of the psalms to do guide us as we give thanks this season, there are a few that work very well for this process! Below you will find fifteen of the best psalms to use to give thanks and why. If you would like to download this list for free, click here!
Psalm 9 - For God’s wonderful deeds
Psalm 28 - For God’s strength and being our shield
Psalm 33 - For God’s steadfast love
Psalm 92 - For how God steadies us in life
Psalm 97 - For God’s sovereign reign over all
Psalm 100 - For God’s faithfulness
Psalm 106 - For God’s goodness
Psalm 107 - For God’s redemption
Psalm 109 - For how God overcomes wicked men
Psalm 111 - For God’s Word
Psalm 118 - For how we can take refuge in God
Psalm 136 - For God’s enduring love
Psalm 138 - For answered prayers
Psalm 140 - For God’s presence
Psalm 145 - For the healing God provides
I know life is hard, and I know sometimes it is hard to find things to give thanks for – but God is always good and always faithful. He has not left you alone, and He will never leave you! He has great plans for you, and one of those is to realize how much He loves you. Give thanks for even that simple gift of God’s love in your life today.
To help you in thanking God, we created a 30 Days of Gratitude Prayer Guide HERE. Download and print this guide to keep with you as a reminder of God's love and promises.
Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/natalie_board
Sarah E. Frazer is a wife, mother, and writer who loves to strengthen and encourage the weary mom to connect with God so that she can replace feelings of discouragement, disillusionment, and disappointment with God’s daily peace. Sarah is the author of several Bible study resources found on her website, sarahefrazer.com/shop. Follow her on Instagram here and download her Psalms of Gratitude for free here.