When I don't have words to pray, I turn to the Psalms. Though the ancient words don't always hit home, and though King David's requests that his mortal enemies be smashed to bits don't feel very Christlike to me, the poetry strikes a chord in my soul. And there are moments when a section or a verse feels divinely selected for my circumstance or mood.

One thing I have done for years is read a Psalm a day. And not just read the Psalm, but allow it to be my guide for prayer. I read a verse and stop and think: What comes to mind when I read this? I sit in silence for a bit and if nothing comes, I move on. Verse by verse I go, often stopping to journal a thought or a prayer or a reminder to call a friend whose name came to mind.

When I don't have words to pray, I turn to the Psalms.

Psalm 50*

I am the Holy One, your God. It is not for lack of sacrifices that I rebuke you, your offerings are constantly before my eyes.

I do not need bulls from your house, rams from your flocks of sheep.

For mine is every beast in the forest, cattle of a thousand mountains.

Even if I were hungry, I would not ask for food, for every continent is mine and all that fills it.

The only sacrifice I need is your gratitude; fulfillment of your oaths to the Most High.

When you call upon me during days of difficulty I will draw you out from pits of despair; then you will behold my glory.

The one who sacrifices gratitude pays me the only true tribute ...

In this Psalm, God speaks into a religious culture steeped in animal sacrifice and offerings. In God's relationship with the chosen people, this was the way that sin was paid for and the pathway between the people and God was kept clear and open.

However, here God seems to look down on animal sacrifice in comparison to what God calls "the only true tribute" -- gratitude.

As I read this particular Psalm and let it guide me, I am spurred to remember that God doesn't want my religious gymnastics and effort. What God wants is my acknowledgement of the gifts all around me and an appropriate level of appreciation and thankfulness. And so I sit with my journal open and write down things, people, circumstances, events that I am grateful for.

I write each thing down and whisper, Thank you, God. Thank you.

Thank you, God. Thank you ...

The one true tribute. The only sacrifice God needs.

I get up from this type of prayer and I am changed. I see more gifts everywhere, my heart is primed to be grateful, I go through the day whispering, Thank you, God. Thank you.

As promised, God draws me out of pits of despair and - in the smallest of gifts - I behold his glory. What started as a mundane day becomes sacred, special, packed with goodness.

Thank you, God. Thank you ... AMEN

*All excerpts are from The Complete Psalms: The Book of Prayer Songs in a New Translation, by Pamela Greenberg.