August 23

Unraveling the Heart Behind “Give Thanks (With a Grateful Heart)”

Unraveling the Heart Behind "Give Thanks (With a Grateful Heart)" 1
Photo Credits:

An American Christian worship song, “Give Thanks (With a Grateful Heart)” dates back in the late 1970s. It was penned by a young seminary graduate Henry Smith in 1978. It is a song very close dearly to his heart, inspired by his struggles in life. In fact, out of all 300 unpublished pieces, this was only his published composition.

The Song and its Story

Every song has its own story to tell but what matters is the heart behind every word written in it. “Give Thanks (With a Grateful Heart)” was conceived by Smith during a difficult time in his life. Instead of being sour and bitter, he turned his experience into a positive one and became grateful.

After graduating from university, Smith had trouble looking for a job. Also, he suffered from a degenerative eye condition which would later leave him legally blind. However, he never lost hope. While at his church in Williamsburg in Virginia, his pastor shared a verse from the Bible that goes:

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet four sakes he became poor so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

(1 Corinthians 8-9)

This scripture tugged Smith at the heartstrings. He realized how Jesus made himself poor just to make others rich through him. Finding hope in the scripture, Smith crafted the song of thanksgiving and trust. He later called it “Give Thanks with a Grateful Heart.

When Smith started performing the song in church, a visiting American Military officer took the song to Europe. The officer together with his wife reintroduced the song to a congregation in Germany. Soon, it spread all throughout Europe becoming a standard hymn in almost every church there.

Don Moen & the Song

In 1986, the song caught the attention of the executives of Integrity Music. Immediately, they published and included the song on their Hosanna! Music. However, they did not credit the author describing the newly published hymn as “author unknown.” Later that year, the song went to the hands of American singer-songwriter Don Moen. During that time, Moen was well known for his praise-and-worship song. Hence, he released the song on his Give Thanks album.

piano, mic, man in suit, man sitting
Don Moen |Photo Credits:

By this time, news came to Smith about what Integrity Music had done to his composition. He then contacted the executives to inform them of his authorship of the song. In their response, they said that they have made efforts to track and find him down. Subsequently, Smith together with Integrity Music signed a writer-publisher agreement for the song’s distribution.

With the incredible success of “Give Thanks (With a Grateful Heart),” it became Hosanna! Music’s bestselling release, selling more than one million copies around the world. Church congregations around the world favorably received the song and it is now recognized as one of the most popular contemporary hymns.

LISTEN to Don Moen’s version as a part of his Give Thanks Album Live Worship Session:

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Christian song, Don Moen, Give Thanks (With a Grateful Heart), Henry Smith

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