Why are Thanksgiving Prayers of the Faithful Important?
God calls us to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18 ESV). God doesn’t call us to be thankful only when things appear to be going well from our vantage point. Even in the midst of our ordinary circumstances–as well as during times of stress and trials–He has called us to give thanks. When we focus upon Him and seek to see His loving hand at work in all aspects of our lives, we will be able to find a reason to give thanks in every circumstance — the seemingly ‘bad’ and ‘mundane’ days, as well as ‘great’ days.
Thanksgiving prayers of the faithful can renew our spirits and help us prepare our hearts for this season when we as a nation stop to take into consideration the multitude of blessings, many of which we take for granted, that God has given to us. Do you ever c consider that truly all that you have and all that you are is a gift to you from God, your Heavenly Father?
James 1:17 ESV says, “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.”
Throughout this season of Thanksgiving and into the time when we celebrate the birth of Christ, the greatest of all gifts, we want to challenge you to be faithful in your Thanksgiving prayers and seek to look for and acknowledge God’s good and perfect gifts. We believe that you can find so much for which to be thankful, even in the midst of these challenging days. There are many ways of creating a heart posture for Thanksgiving, and below we will outline three approaches and three practices.
Find New Things to be Thankful for Every Day
We often find ourselves praying the same prayer every day. Commonly, we have one prayer for before meals and maybe another for before bed. We routinely thank God for our food, home, and family. And while all those are good things to remember to be thankful for, the repetitive nature of the prayers can cause us to grow apathetic and laissez faire in our thanksgiving.
This Thanksgiving season, let us seek out new things to thank our ‘giving Father’ for — things like running water, our heated homes, toilets, birds chirping in the trees, our ability to see, hear, touch, and taste, our fingernails and hair, the stars in the sky, neighbors, the people who remove our trash and deliver our mai, and any and everything else we tend to so easily take for granted. Make a point to thank Him for providing all of these things for your pleasure and good.
Several years, due to a company down-sizing, my husband lost his job and we felt Him calling us to sell our home–what I had considered to be our ‘dream home’. Within a relatively short period, God provided us another home, and He led me to see all of the aspects of it for which I could be thankful even in the midst of still mourning the loss of our previous, ‘dream house’. I chose to see all of the blessings in this new home rather than focusing on what we had to give up: we had a larger walk-in pantry and large walk-in closets, a large deck, hardwood floors, it was on a cul de sac, and best of all we had Christian neighbors who had children close in proximity to the age of ours. These prayers of Thanksgiving helped to turn my focus upon all that I had instead of what I had to leave behind; as I praised Him, God turned my ‘mourning into dancing’. I have often thought since that move how good God is to take away that which we think is the best, and in its place give us what He–our Heavenly Father– knows is truly best for us. I could enumerate a multitude of blessings that we have received from living in this house that He led us to buy almost 20 years ago, and I have learned that the ‘dream house’ or ‘dream anything’ is not what we think it should be, but is whatever God gives to us!
Thanksgiving prayers of the faithful get our focus off of ourselves and back onto God, where our focus should be. Due to our sinful predisposition, it comes very naturally for us to focus on what we don’t have and what’s wrong in our lives and to grumble and complain, truly an affront to God who is always faithful to provide generously for us. It takes us intentionally looking for and focusing upon all of our blessings. Choosing to pray prayers of Thanksgiving each day helps us to grow increasingly aware of all that we have, and we will see gifts we’ve frequently overlooked.
I confess that one of the most challenging things for me is when I encounter a person who chooses to focus upon and complain about what they don’t have rather than choosing to focus upon all of their blessings. I can easily become irritated with them, and if I’m not intentional, their behavior can impact my attitude and lead me to grumble and complain about them! Have you ever noticed that grumbling and complaining often leads to more grumbling and complaining?
Gratefully, God has taught me that when I hear others complain, to consider how many times in my own life I have complained about my circumstances and not been grateful to Him for His faithful provision in my own life. As I am humbled by the reality of my own sin of ingratitude, I ask Him to use me to demonstrate to those ‘grumblers’ the same patience He has shown to me, and to give me His heart of love for them. I have learned to pray, “Thank you Lord for this opportunity to grow in patience” and “teach me Lord to love this person as you have loved me.” Sometimes I have been able to also share with them the joy that comes from learning to count our blessings and to give thanks to God for them.
Every day we wake up requires a choice: will you grumble about or be thankful for what God has given you?
Thank God for Things that Feel Like a Burden
Throughout this Thanksgiving season, let’s also strive to thank God for things we may not want to thank him for — the things we did not ask for, the things we would never have chosen, and the things we think we don’t need or want. If He is the Giver of every good and perfect gift, we should thank Him for everything.
In many circumstances, the situations we wouldn’t have chosen are the very ones we most need to show us our desperate need for God. It is during the trials of life that we often learn how desperate we are for God and learn to depend upon Him. Given that God has told us that eternal life comes from ‘knowing Him’ (John 17:3), and we come to know aspects of His character in the midst of the trials and tribulations of life that we might otherwise not have known, we should praise Him for our trials.
For example, you won’t know God as your Jehovah Rapha–the God who heals–unless you are sick and in need of healing. You won’t know Him as your Comforter unless you have experienced loss. You won’t know Him as Jehovah Jireh, the God Who Provides, unless you have a need. Think about the times when you have gone through rough times; aren’t those the very times when you’ve learned how much you need God, and learned more about another aspect of His magnificent character?
During this pandemic, have you learned anything about God or yourself that you didn’t know before? Or has He reinforced something you already knew? How about that fear and division are favorite tactics of the Enemy? Or maybe He’s made you even more aware of the fragility and brevity of life and your need to invest your time, talents, and develop relationships in what has eternal significance? Whatever truth God may have underscored or the lessons He’s taught you during this trying time, make sure to thank Him for that blessing.
God is truly able to work all things–even our trials and the burdens we carry each day–together for our good and His glory. We will have eyes to see His ‘goodness in the land of the living’ if we keep our focus upon Him and our hearts open to praising Him even for the trials in our life! (Psalm 27:13)
Sing and Dwell on Psalms and Hymns of Thanksgiving
Begin Reading the Psalms
The book of Psalms is full of songs and prayers of Thanksgiving and it’s a great book to go to if you’re looking to learn how to have a heart filled with thanksgiving. Many of the Psalms start with a lament as David, the primary author of the Psalms, felt very comfortable–as we all should–with pouring his heart out before the Lord. Invariably, even in those Psalms that start off with a lament, they end with worship, because as David got His eyes off of his circumstances and onto God, he couldn’t help but give thanks to Him because of His steadfastness, faithfulness, and love.
Psalm 136:26 ESV – “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
Psalm 28:7 ESV – “The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts, and I am helped; my heart exults, and with my song I give thanks to him.”
Meditate on Hymns of Thanksgiving
Throughout my childhood, hymns were part of my Christian heritage. I so appreciate that sound doctrine is woven in throughout most every hymn. Several hymns that I’ve known since I was a child express Thanksgiving prayers of the faithful and open my heart to the timelessness as well as the importance of giving thanks. Three of my favorites include ‘Praise To The Lord The Almighty’, ‘We Gather Together’, and ‘Now Thank We All Our God’, the lyrics of the latter are below. It is my prayer that you will be blessed by these enduring lyrics and have a holiday overflowing with thanksgiving to God, Who is worthy of all praise, honor and glory, now and forevermore!
“Now Thank We All Our God”
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
Oh, may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And guard us through all ills in this world, till the next!
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given,
The Son, and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven—
The one eternal God, Whom earth and Heav’n adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore. Hymn by Martin Rinkart
Read The Power of Gratitude in the Bible Transforming our Hearts (add link) to dig deeper into curating a grateful heart.