Thanksgiving: The Key to Prayer

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,

And into His courts with praise.

Be thankful to Him, and bless His name.

For the Lord is good;

His mercy is everlasting,

And His truth endures to all generations.

Psalm 100:4-5

Growing up, we’ve been taught that the magic words that would unlock closed doors of personal relationships were the words “please” and “thank you.” As we walk with Christ, we will discover that these words are just as valuable in our relationship with Him as they have been in our relationship with people.  When we say “thank you,” it is an admission that we have received a gratuitous gift.  It calls for humility and acknowledges that another has met our needs.  At the very least, it is what we can do to repay another.  Unfortunately, we often become so accustomed to God’s gifts and His grace that we feel that we deserve them.

Is it that Hard to Be Grateful?

Once our needs have been met, many of us tend to ignore God. But when we’re going through circumstances or unpleasant situations, we will press in and try to find Him. We search for God.  But once he meets the need, it’s surprising how we can ignore Him and not even be thankful for all He has done. We see this human tendency in Luke 17:12-19

“Then as He entered a certain village, there met Him ten men who were lepers, who stood afar off. And they lifted up their voices and said, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’

So when He saw them, He said to them, ‘Go, show yourselves to the priests.’ And so it was that as they went, they were cleansed.

And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, returned, and with a loud voice glorified God, and fell down on his face at His feet, giving Him thanks. And he was a Samaritan.

So Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But where are the nine? Were there not any found who returned to give glory to God except this foreigner?” And He said to him, ‘Arise, go your way. Your faith has made you well.’”

In this story, we can see that thanksgiving wasn’t an automatic response for the other nine, even after crying out to Jesus the Healer. But for the Samaritan, the despised foreigner, the thanksgiving He expressed brought glory to God. Moreover, his act of gratitude became an example of faith for many generations.

God Commands Us to be Grateful 

“because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” 

Romans 1:21

As believers, we must recognize that our gratitude moves God’s hand.  On the other hand, our ingratitude separates us from God. An unthankful heart opens our lives to God’s judgment rather than to His blessings.  And so, the question needs to be asked: When we pray, how much thanksgiving is mixed in our prayers?

One of the wrong notions about thanksgiving is that we view it as merely a response to what we receive. While this is not entirely wrong, it is a limited view of the powerful act of giving thanks to God.  The Bible clearly teaches that thanksgiving is how we must learn to approach God. The Bible clearly teaches that thanksgiving is how we must learn to approach God. Paul admonishes in Colossians 4:2, “Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving.”  When we come to God in prayer, we must also come to Him in thanksgiving. 

The Gateway to God’s Presence is Thanksgiving 

A thankful heart will always have access to God. When in need, we are motivated to search for God but we miss out on His presence because we are so overwhelmed with pressing situations in our lives that we wouldn’t recognize that He is already close to us. Sometimes we get tunnel vision that as we focus on the circumstances, we overlook how much He has already blessed us.

If we want to be in the presence of God, we must do what the psalmist says in Psalm 95:2

“Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;

Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.” 

Our thanksgiving should be expressed in our words and actions. And this is not just for our own sake. This allows us to draw near to the presence of God. Despite the burdens and the challenges, when we approach God with gratitude, we can lift ourselves and others into His presence. This act brings light to our situation. Expressing thanksgiving to our generous God will always bring us from our homes and our tents into His tabernacle.

Bring Thanksgiving into Your Prayer Time 

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Giving thanks is an excellent start to our prayers. In expressing gratitude for what God has done, we also express our faith in what He is about to do in our midst. We give Him glory for what He has done in us and through us.

When we pray with thanksgiving, we are reminded to be anxious for nothing as we bring all our requests to God (Philippians 4:6).  God is saying to us that we should never allow ourselves to be stressed out by the things happening around us no matter what.  As we learn to fill our prayers with thanksgiving, God will reveal to us more of Himself. 

Meditating on the goodness of God is a good discipline that will allow us to focus on Him. It will ground us to the truth that He is faithful and that our lives are secure in His hands.

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