Thanksgiving in Prayer

This week I’d like for our discussion to be a little more reflective than usual, a little more devotional if you will.  What I’d like us to consider is how to thankfully pray.  We all know the old aphorism that “life is not about thanksgiving, it’s about thanksliving”.  That is we should not be giving thanks at specific times but our entire attitude, our entire way of life should reflect our thankfulness to God for the great gifts he has given us.  This was sort of the topic last week, that we should live, out of thankfulness to God, in such a way that others give thanks to God for what we have done.

But there are also times when specific, active thanks are in order.  No other time is more fitting to give thanks than when we are at prayer.  So the first question that comes to mind is when do we pray?  This is another one like the thanksliving thing.  Scripture is pretty clear that we are always to be prayerful.  1 Thessalonians 5:17 says, “pray without ceasing”.  We are to pray in the ordinary moments of our lives as well as the extraordinary.  But some times are more focused than others, sometimes our internal dialog with  God is more overt, more intentional.  What then, how are we to pray with thanksgiving?

We’ll take as our first clue Philippians 4:4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

It starts with rejoicing.  If we are happy, ecstatic about the mere existence of someone, can it be said we are thankful?  I think so.  So be happily thankful that God exists and has made his presence and love known to us.  Be thankful that He is near.  We are to be thankful even in circumstances which might otherwise make us anxious because if we pray with thankfulness the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds.

What circumstances have you experienced that, despite your anxiousness, your thankfulness to God for what He was doing in your life allowed you to pray for your situation thankfully so that God guarded your heart and mind with His peace?  When I write it that way and re-read it, it does not even sound remotely possible.  But I know in my own life that God has carried me through situations that might have crushed me.  How could I react with anything but thanksgiving?  And yet….

We’ll also consider Colossians 4:2 a very short verse

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.

We are to devote ourselves to prayer done in watchfulness and thanksgiving.   Webster Online gives two definitions to devote:

1.  to commit by a solemn act <devoted herself to serving God>
2.  to give over or direct (as time, money, or effort) to a cause, enterprise, or activity
Both of these work for our thesis.  Our thanksgiving in prayer is to be a solemn act, not something done frivolously, but true thanks in spirit and in truth.  Solemn in this context I do not think always means with the corners of our mouths turned down or joyless, but the real deal, not just something driven by ritual, habit or custom.
Its also a sacrifice of sorts–its giving.  If we are praying and giving thanks in spirit and truth, we are focusing on God not on something else (not on us).  We have, in a sense, died to ourselves or the other things which consume our lives for just that moment.  Jesus wants to help us stitch those moments together to form a whole life, His life, lived through us.
Thanksgiving is also a cause, enterprise or activity.  The enterprise of thanksgiving is being so full of thanks to God that it spills over out into the world.  If we are that thankful we will be light and salt and more people will give thanks to God for our good deeds.
The last is back to the first and an extension of the second.  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (some very succinct verses) says in full:
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
That kind of wraps up everything else we’ve said and adds “for this is God’s will for you”.  This isn’t something you’ve decided to do, this constant prayer with thanksgiving.  If we are earnestly seeking God’s will here is a big part.  Its very rare that you would ever hear me say that I’m sure something is God’s will.  I’m very often not dialed in enough and have a healthy enough appreciation for the possibility I might be wrong (given my track record) that I usually don’t say that.  But in this instance I believe I am on solid rock when I say that it is God’s will for us to be thankful, to live lives of thanksgiving, to be so thankful that it spills over out our lives and into the world in good deeds.
I’ll go one further.  If we say we are following God’s will and thanksgiving is not a part of what we do, then we are fooling ourselves.
So how are we doing?  Are we truly thankful?  Do our lives reflect it?