Learning to Pray – Thanksgiving

I urge, then, first of all, …  thanksgiving be made for all people – I Timothy 2:1

The word “Thanksgiving” needs no explanation.  When I pray, I must minimize the complaints. I, also, never want to accuse God of not caring.  If I do, I am immediately penitent because I recognize in that moment how the heart has changed and somehow the consolation and assurance prayer offers is missing.  An ungrateful heart or attitude is grossly inappropriate and unfair when we are meeting with the Lord.

Fourteen times in his letters the Apostle Paul underscores the importance of having a grateful heart, a hopeful perspective on our circumstances that is spontaneously recalling past blessings, a mindset that leaves bitterness outside the prayer chamber.⁠1 Thanksgiving is “the grateful acknowledgment of past mercies, as distinguished from the earnest seeking of future [ones].”⁠2

Not only, but prayer without thankfulness is disarmed against an assault by the worries of the day.  Paul reminds us to  “in every situation, by prayer” give God our list of concerns, “with thanksgiving⁠3  if we want to be at peace while we petition Him.

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.⁠4

Paul compared the value of Faith, Hope and Love in writing the church body at Corinth, calling Love the greatest.⁠5 We like to imagine that he was referencing the eternal quality of love whereas Faith and Hope serve us in this life alone.  The same can be said of prayer.  “There remains these six qualities of prayer: vowing, requesting, supplicating, petitioning, interceding, and giving of thanks. But the greatest of these is giving of thanks.

Praise and glory
and wisdom and thanks and honor
and power and strength
be to our God for ever and ever

Some skeptics mock the believers’ imagination that heaven will be one eternal praise and worship service.  This sounds boring since in this life even christians are into more self-centered interests, personal moments, focused concerns and, yes, ..well, the occasional sin.  Life is more diverse than a single interest provides.  Our attention is frequently redirected—or interrupted, if you prefer—to many and various, more sparkling glitter.

But the skeptic has lost sight of the reality under the surface of this churning sea of desires, down where deeper waters run quietly and eternally.  If anything is temporary, it is harboring hateful thoughts and being self-absorped because the energy curve to maintain these is enormous.  People hide hateful feelings, greed, and a loveless pride.  We tend here to hypocritically carry false smiles about to keep them hidden, but this is emotionally strenuous and an impossibly heavy weight to carry for any length of time.  Living the lie about one’s true feelings costs more—far, far more—than learning to be thankful.

There are a few aspects of our humanity that seem to have an endless source of energy.  There are interests we can identify in our love of nature, of greenery and the colors of Spring, of fresh air and blue sky—to name a few—that never change, never wane, never fail to draw us to the beaches, to the mountains and to the fields of flowers growing wild that in some fashion remain always and ever hypnotic and addictive.  If these are unchanged in this life, what evidence might there be that these are still temporary sources of our happiness?

None.  Quite the opposite. What God has made will never cease to awe us and it is a grateful heart that knows this.  My imagination excites me to picture a praise service in the hereafter that is not just giving God a well deserved standing ovation but a praise service that is filled with the testimonies of the saints and of Jesus’ explanations that finally grout the loose bricks of past blessings with God’s work on our behalf—once unseen, but now, at last, made known and complete.⁠7

1 The Bible is serious about the benefit and importance of gratefulness even regarding our thoughts on those who do not call us friend.
I Peter 3:9 Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult. On the contrary, repay evil with blessing, because to this you were called so that you may inherit a blessing.
Matthew 5:44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,
2 Richard C. Trench.  Synonyms of the New   Testament. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975) p 192
3 Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition [δέησις], with thanksgiving, present your requests [αἴτημα] to God.
4 Colossians 3:15.
5 I Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
6 Revelation 7:12
7 I Corinthians 13:12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
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