I have an 18-year-old son who has special needs, and sometimes when he gets rolling, he will put his head down and charge straight down the hallway and barge right into our room. My wife calls him Kramer when he does that because it reminds her of the character from Seinfeld. and how he would just barge into the room with no regard for the people in the room or what they were doing.
My point is that sometimes this is how we go into prayer. We just barge right in, tell God what we need or want and storm right on out. Granted there may be moments where this may feel warranted, but those should be the exception and not the rule. If I could cause you to think a little today, I want you to focus on an often-missed element of prayer that if you incorporate it, can change your prayer life. I am talking about thanksgiving.
As you can see from this psalm, we are encouraged to come before God’s presence with thanksgiving. But what is it? Thanksgiving is when you show gratitude for all of God’s goodness and all of God’s grace that he has shown to you. Imagine the difference it can make in your prayer life if before you ever ask God for anything else, you simply thank him for what he has already done. This can cause a dramatic shift in your prayer life.
There is tremendous power in thanksgiving, and I want to share with you three aspects of thanksgiving that, when you fully grasp them, you will see how they can transform your prayer life.
In this Psalm we are reminded to never forget all the things that God has done, none of his benefits. Here is what happens when you remember what God has done in thanksgiving.
It humbles you because you recognize God is your source.
It encourages you because you recognize God is your source.
It builds your faith because you recognize God is your source.
Remembering that everything you have comes from the hand of the Father keeps you from becoming puffed up, as if you did it or got it all on your own. However, it also encourages you because you can look back and see how God has taken care of you over the years of your life. It then proceeds to build your faith and confidence because you can be certain that if God has taken care of you in the past, he will certainly continue to take care of you now. All of this happens when you begin to offer thanksgiving and remember what God has done in your life.
Sometimes we approach God with a “what have you done for me lately” attitude. This is especially true if there is a pressing need we are praying for that God has not answered yet. In these moments you can be tempted to forget everything God has done before, because he hasn’t done what you need him to do right now. Don’t make that mistake because this is a trick of the enemy. Remember everything God has done and give thanks for it all. I would even encourage you to start writing down all the things God has done for you. I trust you will discover that list will get quite long, and you may be there a while.
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Thanksgiving is not just about looking backward; it is also about looking forward with anticipation. Consider this often-quoted verse from Philippians.
This verse is about prayer and petition, but notice what comes with it – thanksgiving. In this role, thanksgiving can serve two purposes. You can use it to look back, but you can also use it to look forward. In other words, you are offering prayers and petition and giving thanks for the answer before it happens. Your thanksgiving is in anticipation of the answered prayer.
When Jesus went to Lazarus’ tomb, before he raised him from the dead here is what he said.
This was an offering of thanksgiving that was given before Lazarus was raised because Jesus knew what was about to happen. When you go to pray, don’t just ask and believe, give thanks in advance that God has heard you and that he is going to bring an answer to your situation.
Here is a truth about prayer that we must come to grips with: God does not always move when we want and in the way we want. His timetable and ours are not always in alignment. While we can be startled and nervous, wondering when the situation is going to change, God is never nervous or worried because he knows the end from the beginning. When you feel this way, it requires some trust, and thanksgiving can help build that trust. Here is another well-known verse that can help make the point.
You are probably wondering how does this tie into thanksgiving? Well, it is quite simple. If God is moving slower than you want or differently than you expected, you can still give thanks, because you can trust that he is working things out for your good. You might not see it, you might not understand it, you might not even feel like you want it, but you can be confident in knowing God is looking out for your best interests. Even amid delay you can still give thanks because you know God will be good to you. It is this confidence that causes thanksgiving to flow out of your heart and builds your trust.
The beautiful thing about these three aspects of thanksgiving is that they all work together. Looking back causes you to remember, but also allows you to anticipate, which builds trust because you can have the confidence in knowing that God is faithful and he will not fail you.
As you can see, thanksgiving can play an important role in prayer. If you are going to take the time to thank God for all the things he has done, that is naturally going to lead into praise. When you begin to praise God for what he has done, that will naturally lead into worshipping God for who he is. One simply feeds into the other, and thanksgiving is the catalyst.
I hope you can see the power of thanksgiving. I also encourage you to go make that list of all the things God has done that you are thankful for. On days when you feel low, or you feel like God is moving too slow, pull out that list. Remind yourself of the God who has been faithful from the beginning and who will remain faithful to the end. As you are reminding yourself, make sure to offer up some thanksgiving along the way, because God has done much for you.
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a speaker, Bible teacher, and co-founder of The Bible Study Club. He is the author of The Pursuit of Purpose which will help you understand how God leads you into his will. He has also just released his new book The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Do you want to go deeper in your walk with the Lord but can’t seem to overcome the stuff that keeps getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God that you truly desire to be. To learn more about his ministry please visit clarencehaynes.com.