I've recently listened to a couple of sermons about prayer delivered by Tim Keller. In both sermons he asked a very helpful question. Given one of those rare moments when you have absolutely nothing to do - it may be that you actually got to the end of that TO DO list and you're experiencing one of those rare lulls in proceedings or it may be that you are waiting (in a queue, in a traffic jam, for someone to arrive) and you have a few unfilled moments or it may be that you are doing something menial with hands engaged but mind free to roam - where does your mind go? Do you plan, dream, remember, worry, pray, create, blank out? Where we go in those empty moments gives window to our hearts. It's a good question to ask of ourselves. Maybe a bit scary even.
There was a similar echo in chapter two of A Call to Spiritual Reformation: Priorities from Paul and his Prayers on the subject of prayers of thanksgiving.
For what do we commonly give thanks? We say grace at meals, thanking God for our food; we give thanks when we receive material blessings - when the mortgage we’ve applied for comes through, or when we first turn on the ignition in a car we’ve just purchased. We may sigh a prayer of sweaty thanks after a near miss on the highway; we may utter a prayer of sincere and fervent thanks when we recover from serious illness. We may actually offer brief thanksgiving when we hear that someone we know has recently been converted. But by and large, our thanksgiving seems to be tied rather tightly to our material well-being and comfort. The unvarnished truth is that what we most frequently give thanks for betrays what we most highly value. If a large percentage of our thanksgiving is for material prosperity, it is because we value material prosperity proportionately. From pages 40-41
And then something to encourage some growth in this area.
If in our prayers we are to develop a mental framework analogous to Paul’s, we must look for signs of grace in the lives of Christians, and give God thanks for them. It is not simply that Paul gives thanks for whatever measure of maturity some group of Christians has achieved, before he goes on to ask for yet more maturity (although in part that is what he is doing.) Rather the specific elements in his thanksgiving show the framework of he brings to his intercession – and we urgently need to develop the same framework.
For what have we thanked God recently? Have we gone over a list of members at our local church , say, or over a list of Christian workers, and quietly thanked God for signs of grace in their lives? Do we make it a matter of praise to God when we observe evidence in one another of growing conformity to Christ, exemplified in trust, reliability, love and genuine spiritual stamina?” From page 44