One place I am often remiss in my prayer is the proper sense of Gratitude. Sometimes I take for granted the wonderful privilege God has granted me in allowing direct communication with Him and with those who have gone before us. God need do no such thing. He could be the God envisioned by the Deists--the God who set the Universe in motion and forgot it entirely thereafter--the disinterested God, the Distant God.
But He is not. He is close. As close as a word turned His direction, as close as a thought. I need not go somewhere special. I need not do something special. Of course I can, should I choose to do so, but I need not.
I am not grateful enough. I recall the words of a priest who used to serve in the Parish I belong to. He said that a truly grateful person could not be unhappy. As a corollary, I am not certain that he spelled this out, much of our personal unhappiness spills out of a lack of gratitude. If I have a sense, even subconsciously, that I am owed something by the world, or that I have been cheated of something, or that I do not have enough--either spiritual or material good--I will be unhappy. No matter what the cause, much of my unhappiness flows from an inflated sense of self, by a lack of perception of my true worth. If I pause even for a short moment to consider the lot of the vast majority of humankind, I would realize what a truly privileged position I occupy. Compared to something on the order of 80% of humanity, I am in the position of the rich young man who approached Christ. Now, in my own society there is no way in which I could be considered rich and privileged; but, my own society is a distortion, an artificial construct.
I need to return to a prayer of gratitude and praise. I need to remember the purpose of many of my vocal prayers--they remind me that I am the creature and I speak to the creator. Praise and thanksgiving help me to place myself in proper perspective. They are the foundation of humility--a true understanding of my stature (or more properly lack thereof) before almighty God. These reminders, it seems to me, are as important as the Memento Mori of Elizabethan times. They choose the reminders of mortality for these purposes and perhaps they would serve the same today, although they would tend to draw attention to oneself. So rather than memento mori, perhaps a good substitute would be a good dose of conscious, deliberate, heart-felt gratitude for who we are, what we have, and the grace God has given us in allowing us to speak to Him.