Giving Thanks…For a Change!

Recently my son, an avid hunter, sat in his deer stand with his scope set and muzzleloader locked on a large eight-point buck.  As his heart raced with excitement, he pulled the trigger.  Nothing.  The buck was startled and escaped with his life.  As it turns out, my son had all the vital elements for an effective shot except for one essential ingredient.  He had the gun, the black gunpowder, and the bullet.  Unfortunately, he had forgotten to load the primer, which allows the hammer to ignite the powder and propel the bullet.  One missing ingredient led to a lost opportunity.

Including all the essential ingredients is vital when creating a desired product.  When baking a cake, if you omit the flour you have a soupy mess.  Leave out the eggs and the cake crumbles.  Omit the sugar and it is bland.  Forget the “leavening agents” of yeast, baking powder, or baking soda and you will have a flat and lifeless result.

An Essential – But Often Forgotten – Ingredient in Life and Prayer

Thanksgiving is an essential ingredient for real prayer.  Thanksgiving infuses all of our praying, thinking, and living with a vital experience of the goodness, care, and providence of God.

When we face difficult circumstances without gratitude, we feel worry and fear.  When we grow weary with overload and work, without gratitude, we complain and become stressed.  When we are coping with a strained relationship, without gratitude, we become critical and accusatory.  When we encounter failure and disappointment, without gratitude, we become hopeless and negative.

In 1 Timothy 2:1-8, Paul reminds us that thankful prayer is powerful in changing us and enabling us to change the world.   This is a primary point of a grateful heart.

Five Key Insights:

Our thankful prayer is rooted in the character of God, not our circumstances.  In 1 Timothy 1:14-17, Paul opens his letter with deep gratitude for the saving grace and calling of Christ in his life.  His thankfulness crescendos with these words: “Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.”  Regardless of our circumstances (and Paul’s were often very difficult, marked by suffering and uncertainty), we can root our gratitude in the truth of our King.  He is in charge of everything and is our eternal God whose purposes transcend time, our immortal Lord whose life is greater than any challenge, our invisible Master who works in ways that we do not always see or understand, and our wise God who does all things well.  We can be thankful indeed.

Our thankful prayer is a priority in community, not just individually.  As we read Paul’s admonition to pray “first of all,” we must remember that he gave these instructions to Timothy for the gathered church, not just individuals.  As I often state, corporate prayer and private prayer are as essential as walking on both the right leg and the left leg.  Gratitude must shape the community and culture of a church.

Our thankful prayer should embrace balanced, biblical prayer, not just “requests” for an easy life.  Paul encourages “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks.”  Rather than certain specified components of prayer, Paul is describing a fully-orbed expression of drawing near, seeking God’s presence, trusting Him for our needs, and doing it all with gratitude.

Paul also calls us to pray for ALL people with whom we are in relationship and give special focus to prayers for those in leadership, including political leaders.   If Paul could pray for the ruthless, godless Nero, we can pray with similar gratitude for those who lead our organizations, churches, and political systems.

Our thankful prayer changes us, not necessarily our situation.  Note the results of this kind of prayer: “That we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence.”   Thankful prayer changes our lifestyle, our attitudes, and our response to the leaders and society around us. 

Our thankful prayer accomplishes the Gospel mission through people, not programs.  Read Paul’s words carefully:

“For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.  For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time, for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.”

To summarize, when we pray as we should we will live as we should and the Gospel will be communicated to the lost as it should – through our lives.

Thankful Prayer – For a Change, Starts with Us 

Paul writes to the men, who represent the leadership of the church and home, “I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”  Real, biblical prayer leads to the lifting of hands, indicating a surrendered and holy life.  The change God desires in our world starts in our hearts void of wrath toward others and free of doubt toward God. 

So this year, let us pray and focus on celebrating Thanksgiving – for a change – starting with who we are and how we live, for the good of the society around us that is in desperate need of the good news of Jesus Christ.

Copyright © 2012 Daniel Henderson. All rights reserved.