I have an 18 year old son who has special needs and sometimes when he gets rolling he lowers his head and storms right down the hall and storms right into our room. My wife calls him Kramer because it reminds her of the character from Seinfeld. and how he just stormed into the room regardless of the people in the room or what they were doing.
My point is that this is how we go to prayer sometimes. We just storm in, tell God what we need or want, and storm off immediately. Granted, there may be moments when this feels justified, but these should be the exception rather than the rule. If I could get you thinking today, I want you to focus on an often overlooked element of prayer that, if you include it, can transform your prayer life. I’m talking about thanksgiving.
What is thanksgiving in prayer?
“Let us come before him with thanks and praise him with music and song” (Psalm 95: 2).
As you can see in 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 you. Imagine the difference it can make in your prayer life if, before you ever ask for anything else, you simply thank God for what He has already done. This can lead to a dramatic change in your prayer life.
Thanksgiving has tremendous power, and I want to share with you three aspects of Thanksgiving that, when you fully understand it, you will see how it can transform your prayer life.
1. Thanksgiving is about remembering what God did
“Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is in me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all his blessings ”- Psalm 103: 1-2, NKJV.
In this psalm we are reminded never to forget all the things God has done, none of his benefits. Here’s what happens when you remember what God did in thanksgiving.
It humiliates you because you realize that God is your source.
It encourages you because you realize that God is your source.
It strengthens your faith because you realize that God is your source.
Reminding yourself that all you have comes from the hand of the Father will not get you bloated as if you did it yourself or got it all. However, it also encourages you because you can look back and see how God has looked after you over the years of your life. It then builds your faith and trust because you can be sure that if God has cared for you in the past, He surely will care for you now. All of this happens when you begin to give thanks and remember what God has done in your life.
Sometimes we approach God with the attitude “what have you done for me lately”. This is especially true when we pray that there is an urgent need that God has not yet responded to. In these moments, you can be tempted to forget all that God did before because He didn’t do what you need to do now. Don’t make this mistake because this is an enemy trick. Think of all that God has done and give thanks for everything. In fact, I encourage you to write down everything God has done for you. I trust you will find the list grows quite long, and you may stay there for a while.
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2. Thanksgiving is about anticipating what God is going to do
Thanksgiving isn’t just about looking back; it’s also about looking ahead with anticipation. Consider this oft-quoted verse from Philippians.
“Do not worry about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, bring your petitions before God” (Philippians 4: 6).
This verse is about prayer and supplication, but notice what comes with it – thanksgiving. In this capacity, thanksgiving can serve two purposes. You can use it to look back, but you can also use it to look ahead. In other words, you offer prayers and petitions and give thanks for the answer before it happens. Your thanksgiving is in anticipation of the answered prayer.
When Jesus went to the tomb of Lazarus before raising him from the dead, he said this.
“So they took the stone away. Then Jesus looked up and said: ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me’ ”(Jn 11:41).
This was a thanksgiving given before Lazarus was raised because Jesus knew what was going to happen. When you go to pray, not only ask and believe, but give thanks in advance that God has heard you and will give an answer to your situation.
3. Thanksgiving creates trust
Here is a truth about prayer that we must grapple with: God doesn’t always move when and how we want. His schedule and ours don’t always match. While we can be frightened and nervous and wonder when the situation will change, God is never nervous or worried because He knows the end from the beginning. When you feel this way, it takes some trust, and thanksgiving can help build that trust. Here is another well-known verse that can help clarify the point.
“And we know that God works in everything for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28).
You’re probably wondering how this relates to Thanksgiving? Well, it’s very simple. If God is moving more slowly than you want or different than expected, you can still give thanks because you can trust that He is doing things for your best. You may not see it, you may not understand, you may not even feel like you want it, but you can be sure that God will look after your interests. Even if you are late, you can still give thanks because you know that God is good to you. It is this trust that allows thanksgiving to flow from your heart and build your trust.
The beauty of these three aspects of thanksgiving is that they all work together. Looking back, you can remember, but also anticipate, what creates trust, because you can trust that God is faithful and will not fail you.
Thanksgiving becomes a catalyst
As you can see, thanksgiving can play an important role in prayer. If you take the time to thank God for all the things He has done, it naturally leads to praise. Of course, when you start praising God for what he has done, it leads to worshiping God for who he is. One just feeds into the other, and thanksgiving is the catalyst.
I hope you can see the power of thanksgiving. I also encourage you to make this list of all the things God has done that you are grateful for. On days when you feel down or feel like God is moving too slowly, pull out this list. Remember the God who was faithful from the beginning and will remain faithful until the end. As you remember this, make sure you offer some thanksgiving along the way, because God has done a lot for you.
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Related Resource: Listen to our Teach Us to Pray podcast with Christina Patterson. You can find all episodes on LifeAudio.com. Now, listen to an episode by clicking the play button below:
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Clarence L. Haynes Jr. is a public 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 is leading you in His will. He has also just published his new book, The Pursuit of Victory: How To Conquer Your Greatest Challenges and Win In Your Christian Life. Would you like to go deeper in your path with the Lord but cannot overcome the things that keep getting in the way? This book will teach you how to put the pieces together so that you can live a victorious Christian life and finally become the man or woman of God you really want to be. To learn more about his service, please visit clarencehaynes.com.