Almighty God, our heavenly Father, your mercies are new every morning; and though we deserve only punishment, You receive us as Your children and provide for all our needs of body and soul. Grant that we may heartily acknowledge Your merciful goodness, give thanks for all Your benefits, and serve You in willing obedience; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.
Sometimes the order in which something happens is important. I spent a few months in Italy and while there took a one-evening cooking class in which we learned how to make pizza the Italian way. The dough recipe requires a certain amount of time and planning. At one point, I am to combine the yeast and the flour together with the water and stir. And then I must wait. After the prescribed time has passed, I add salt. The salt retards the yeast. If I add it out of order or too soon, the dough won’t rise properly. I must do it in the proper order.
Notice the order of the things we ask God to do today. First that He would grant us to acknowledge His merciful goodness. Then, we give thanks for his benefits. It is only after He has given us the knowledge and the thankful hearts that we finally get around to serving God. If you skip the steps or imagine them out of order, it won’t work too well. Something goes awry.
The modifiers are also important in this progression. Read the prayer again and pay attention to how these things are described. The acknowledgment is heartily done. The thanksgiving is for all the benefits which God has given. The service rendered in a willing obedience. If we try to skip a step, the result won’t be a willing obedience but a slavish or worldly sort of obedience. And so, the acknowledgment of God’s benefits needs to be a thing of the heart and then the thanksgiving needs to be for all the benefits. Those are key ingredients, properly ordered, which lead us to an obedience which is not begrudging or offered as a purchase. In these times of anxiety and turmoil this becomes especially important. Take stock of the things God has done for you. Begin with the gift of Jesus, your Baptism, and the people of your life who care for you. Think about opportunities to be educated and work and grow. God has been very good to you. Thank him for all those gifts. The list should be long. It is then that the obedience to which you are called becomes a willing service.