We have already learned that adoration and confession are important ingredients of prayer. We begin our prayer beholding the beauty of God. All prayers consist of praises to God, and humble acknowledgment of our sins. These are the ‘spiritual colors’ of our prayers, as Benjamin Palmer called it. Today, we will learn another one, thanksgiving.
For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.Romans 1:21 ESV
Our text states that ungratefulness is one of the bases of God’s judgment (v. 18). The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, and that includes thanklessness.
It should be natural for a person to utter praises to God whenever he receives blessings! But men nowadays are not willing to praise God. They are willing to praise and thank luck but not God. Men by nature refuse to give thanks to God in every blessing (special and generic) they receive.
Depraved men do not thank God even for generic blessings like air, shelter, family, etc. They take God’s blessings for granted. But man’s heart will be changed once he receives saving grace from God. Gratefulness is the gift of redeeming grace. Once a man’s heart is changed, his prayer will also be changed. He now acknowledges every temporal and eternal blessing.
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
James 1:17 ESV
God must be thanked for. Every good thing that we receive comes from Him alone. It is even God’s blessings that we are able to thank Him. If all you do is complain and you ignore God’s common grace, you must repent. Ask that God may give you a grateful heart. We thank Him that we are able to give thanks to Him.
So, how must we thank God? We must thank God sincerely, joyfully, and continually.
The LORD is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.
Psalms 145:8 ESV
Prayer is a sincere, sensible, affectionate, pouring out of the heart or soul to God through Christ, by the strength or assistance of the Spirit.John Bunyan (1628-1688), 19
Again, this is impossible if we do not see God’s blessings. Take note that blessings are not limited to the “good things” that we perceive. As the famous song asks, “What if blessings come through pain?” So we must learn to count our blessings. It is our duty to count blessings. If God gives you afflictions, he is giving you the opportunity to advance in your spiritual exercises. We won’t grow if all we have are “good things”
God’s abundant love is sufficient to thank God. We cannot enjoy the beauty of our pilgrim on earth because we only focus on the “negative things” and not on the “positive happenings”. Again, all things (good and bad) work together for good to those who love God. Our thanksgiving will be insincere if we cannot see the reason why we must thank God.
Rejoice always. 1 Thessalonians 5:16 ESV
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Philippians 4:4 ESV
If we are commanded to rejoice “always” in the LORD, then that includes rejoicing in prayer which is expressed in thanksgiving. We joyfully thank God. Our hearts are bursting with praises to the Triune Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. When we are exuberant, none can stop us from voicing out our heartfelt gratitude to God.
Persistent prayer tends to developed deeper gratitude as well. As the joy of a baby’s birth is greater because of the months of anticipation, so is the joy of an answer after long and persistent praying (Whitney).
Pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:17-18 ESV
Donald Whitney observes, “While ‘continue steadfastly in prayer’ emphasizes prayer as an activity, ‘pray without ceasing’ reminds us that prayer is also a relationship. Prayer is in one sense an expression of a Christian’s unbroken relationship with the Father.”
[Albert Barnes, Commentary on 1 Th 5:17] ~ We are to maintain an uninterrupted and constant spirit of prayer. We are to be in such a frame of mind as to be ready to pray publicly if requested; and when alone, to improve any moment of leisure which we may have when we feel ourselves strongly inclined to pray.
Our throbbing heart is more than enough to thank God unceasingly. We thank God for His daily supply of grace. We thank God for the daily remembrance of our frailty and dependence on Him through pains and affliction. We thank God for the opportunity to grow in grace and patience. We thank God for a lot more.
When affliction comes, our hearts must be overflowing with joy. Why? Because it is for our growth (James 1:2-4). God does not spoil us. God is not raising up spoiled brats in His redeemed family. God wants us to grow in patience. God makes us stronger by allowing us to experience heavy providences.
Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
Ephesians 5:20 ESV
We must offer sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving. Sometimes, it takes us long to thank God. But we must observe ourselves, and be quick to thank God. Do we instantly thank God? When you sit under a faithful proclamation of the Word of God, do you thank God? Gospel ministry is also a blessing. When you are praised for your accomplishment at work or at home, do you thank God? Those accomplishments are impossible without His strength. But when you fail, it only proves that sin remains, we are ungrateful. Our sense of dependence on God easily gets lost (Goodwin, 21). So, we must pray more for a grateful heart.
To God be the glory!
This blog post is based on our pastor’s message in Bella Vista last 01/26/22.
- Bunyan, J. (1965). Prayer. The Banner Of Truth Trust.
- Goodwin, T., & Palmer, B. (2007). What Happens When I Pray? Grace Publication Trust. (Original work published 1997)
- Whitney, D. S. (2014). Spiritual disciplines for the Christian life. Navpress.