The Role of Thanksgiving in Prayer

prayerWe interrupt your regularly scheduled tryptophan haze to bring you this important head-scratcher:

What do grass, a Seattle Seahawks championship, and the mercies of God all have in common?

The answer:

Nothing, thank God.

The first passes away on its own (Matthew 6:30). The second is dependent on human effort.

But the third “never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” (Lamentations 3:22-23)

Of course, I rarely ever live as if that were true.

Nobody was more jacked and pumped than I was when the Seattle Seahawks clawed their way to their first Super Bowl (and then won it basically on the first snap). And nobody was more anxious the next day when my mind inevitably turned to the next question:

“But will they repeat?”

Lord forgive me. My team – my team! – hasn’t even come home to their parade yet, and I’m worried about whether they’ll pull it off next year. And I wasn’t alone; other Seahawks fans across the world immediately turned to the same question. It’s a phenomenon not limited to the Seahawks, or even to football. Can’t we just stop and enjoy the victory for even one second?

There’s a word for that, by the way: Thanksgiving.

I posted last week about feeling backed up against our own personal Red Seas. Now I have to admit that I share the short memory of the Israelites after they walked across and moved on to the Promised Land.

It was one abdication of faithfulness after another on their part. God would literally no sooner appear, deliver, provide, or otherwise answer their prayers than the Israelites would assume “Well, that must be it” and start despairing. They treated God’s mercies as if they had a shelf life like grass, or a “championship window” like the Seahawks.

I do it, too. In my own mind, it goes something like this: “Well, that’s my quota. I got a terrific blessing or answer from God, and now that’s going to be it for a while. After all, it’s a tough life and in this world we will have trouble and most of us aren’t rolling in abundance, so I can’t expect much else for a season.”

You can see how much of my worldview is informed by circumstance and experiences, rather than God’s faithfulness.

God didn’t reveal his faithfulness in one trial so I would expect something entirely different the next. His love is not periodic like a comet. It’s steady like the glow of a star.

Maybe if thanksgiving were a real thing, we could hold onto that better.

It occurred to me that perhaps the A-C-T-S is a time-honored prayer model for good reason. Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication. It guides us to thank God for all he’s done before addressing what he will do.

And it makes sense. How can we really pray with confidence and expectation if God’s past faithfulness isn’t fully on our minds?

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. (Philippians 4:6-7)

Thanksgiving as a prerequisite to receiving God’s peace in prayer.

We’re often urged to create altars in our worship of God – visible tokens that remind us of God’s faithfulness. I shall make thanksgiving my mental altar. Constantly looking back so I can look forward.

Happy Thanksgiving.

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