March 22, 2019: Gratitude at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine

From Fr. Steven

Lord, help me be grateful for what I have, remember that I don’t need most of what I want, and that joy is found in simplicity and generosity. 

This Contentment Prayer from Adam Hamilton's book Enough is a lovely prayer and certainly an appropriate one for this season of Lent. It expresses a fine Christian sentiment, which also agrees with many of the world's religious traditions: material goods can never give us happiness. 

But if I can be honest, I find the self-consciously "pious" and self-congratulatory tone of the Contentment Prayer to be a little grating.  

If you are someone who truly believes that material goods will give you happiness, is this prayer really going to do the trick? Or does the prayer only "preach to the choir" and just reinforce the values we already hold as Christians, allowing us to feel good for holding them?

But the last thing we Christians need are more reasons to feel good about ourselves. Especially in this season of Lent, what we need is someone to set fire to our egos, illusions, and endless "self-improvement" schemes, and help us realize that we are no better than those hypocrites we love to denounce. What we need is someone like Janis Joplin.