The Rhythm Of Thanks And Prayer

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Recently someone told me they had decided to quit asking God for things more than once. “He’s heard me. He knows what I want. I don’t want to keep bugging him. So I’ll ask him once then just keep thanking him that he’s going to answer my prayer. But I’m not going to keep asking over and over for the same thing.”

God is definitely blessed by our thankfulness. And considering all he’s done for us in Christ, it’s only right that we overflow with thanks to him. In Colossians 2:7 Paul tells us to walk in Christ “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.”

Psalm 100:4 tells us

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

Someone once said that as we are “entering” God’s gates and courts, we should do so with thanks and praise, before we start asking him for things. Although I don’t believe Scripture requires us to thank God before making requests, in general I try to thank him before I lay my petitions before him. Usually my morning devotions consist of some Bible intake first, then thanking God for things – often writing them down in a journal, then bringing my requests. It is so good to remind myself that God has already blessed me in a myriad of ways. I believe thankfulness expresses humility and is a good reminder that all I have is a gift from him.

But God also wants us to ask him for things. Even if we ask him again and again. He told the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 to encourage us that we “ought always to pray and not lose heart.” He tells us in 1 Thess 5:17:

pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

The Psalms are filled with people crying out to God again and again, like in Psalm 88:

Every day I call upon you, O LORD;
I spread out my hands to you. (9)

But I, O LORD, cry to you;
in the morning my prayer comes before you. (13)

God tells us to practice the rhythm of thanksgiving and prayer. Psalm 50 tells us:

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
and perform your vows to the Most High,
and call upon me in the day of trouble;
I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.”

God says give me a sacrifice of thanks. Perform your vows to me – promises made when in trouble that if God delivered them, they’d praise and thank him. Then God says, call upon me in the day of trouble – bring your needs to me. Then I will deliver me and you shall glorify me with even more thanks and praise.

This is the rhythm of thanks and petition: Offer thanks, call upon me, I answer, you thank me again.

Php 4:6-7 says the rhythm of prayer and thanks is the antidote to anxiety:

do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Pray. Make supplications with thanksgiving. Make your requests known to God. Keep doing that. Fight your temptation to worry that way. And as you practice the rhythm of thanks and prayer, God’s peace will guard your heart and mind.

If you haven’t thanked your heavenly Father for anything yet today, why not take a few minutes right now and offer some thanks to him?

A Simple Habit To Set The Tone For Your Day

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What’s the first thing you think about when you wake up? Do you have thoughts like:

Oh great, another miserable cold day.
These kids are driving me crazy.
I have to meet with my boss today.
I hate my job.
This house is such a mess.
I have so much to study before my final.
I am so tired.
Need coffee! Now.

The thoughts we start the day with can set the tone for our day. We can begin the day grumbling and down. We can kick off the morning worrying or stressed. DML Jones said:

Have you realized that most of your unhappiness in life is due to the fact that you are listening to yourself instead of talking to yourself? Take those thoughts that come to you the moment you wake up in the morning. You have not originated them, but they start talking to you, they bring back the problem of yesterday, etc. Somebody is talking. Who is talking to you?

Jones refers to Psalm 42:5:

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

So Jones goes on to say we must do what the Psalmist did:

The main art in the matter of spiritual living is to know how to handle yourself. You have to take yourself in hand, you have to address yourself, preach to yourself, question yourself. You must say to your soul: ‘Why art thou cast down’–what business have you to be disquieted?

A little later he says:

And then you must go on to remind yourself of God, Who God is, and what God is and what God has done, and what God has pledged Himself to do.

This is a great habit to get into. Not just when we wake up but all day long. Remind yourself of who God is and his promises to you. I heard one man say that he’d cultivated the habit of thanking God for the gift sleep as soon as he woke in the morning. So years ago, I began to do that. Then I added a couple other things to try to remember to thank God for every morning as I stagger toward the coffee pot:

Thank you for your protection during the night.
Thank you that your mercies are new every morning.
Thank you for your steadfast love that never ceases.
Thank you Jesus for saving me.

As I begin to thank God each morning as I’m waking up, it sets a tone of thankfulness for my whole day. This small habit has made a huge difference in my life. Try it as you head towards your coffeemaker. This works equally well for tea drinkers….

12 Things To Thank God For In The Midst Of Affliction

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One of the most important things we must do when we suffer is to give thanks.  I don’t say this lightly and I know many believers who have endured unimaginable pain and tragedy.  Giving thanks in the midst of agony and affliction is certainly not easy to do. 

Yet Ephesians 5:20 tells us we should give thanks “always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” and 1 Thess 5:18 says to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  Giving thanks helps us focus on God in our affliction, steers us away from complaining, strengthens our faith and brings glory to Jesus.

There are many things we can give thanks for when we suffer, but here are 12 that I try to remember:

1) That God is sovereign and in complete control of the intensity and the duration of your affliction.

I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me,
declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose Is 46:9-10

2) That God’s love and mercies never cease

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness. LA 3:22-23

3) That Jesus will never leave nor forsake you.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” HEB 13:5

4) That God is with you in your affliction

When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. IS 43:2

5) That God hears your every prayer

The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous
and his ears toward their cry. Ps 34:15

When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears
and delivers them out of all their troubles. PS 34:17

6) That God is using this affliction to make you like Christ.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:28-29)

7) That this affliction is momentary and light compared to the eternal reward it is producing

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison… 2 CO 4:17

8) That Jesus is your sympathetic High Priest who intercedes for you constantly

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. HEB 4:15

Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. HEB 7:25

9) That God is near you in your pain

The LORD is near to the brokenhearted
and saves the crushed in spirit. PS 34:18

10) That Jesus is your refuge, strength, and strong tower you can run to.

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. (Psalm 46:1, ESV)

The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe. PR 18:10

11) That God has saved you, washed away your sins, and adopted you as his own child.

Blessed are those whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. RO 4:7

12) That someday Jesus will wipe away every tear from your eyes and you will see his glorious face.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. REV 21:4

How To Make Your Doctor’s Day

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Or at least make her smile.

A couple weeks ago, I went to see my family doctor. He’s been treating me for years. Our visits are usually pretty low key. He asks me questions while squinting at my chart, listens to my lungs, asks me what I’m doing for Christmas or vacation, makes a couple corny jokes, answers any questions I have, writes my prescription and says see you next time. I’ll ask him what he’s doing for Christmas or vacation, ask a question or two like is it really necessary to have a colonoscopy again so soon, thank him, and say see you next time. But this last visit, I gave him pause. And I think I made him smile. At least I hope so.

At the end of my visit, just before he left, I said, “Hey Doctor, could you wait just one more minute? I have something I’d like to say to you.” He immediately sat down with a concerned look on his face. Was I going to tell him I was in excruciating pain? Was I going to blast him? I’d never said I had something else to say to him.

I said, “I don’t know if you get a lot of thanks or not,” I said. “But I would like to seriously thank you Doctor. You have done me a lot of good over the years. You have taken care of me, I have experienced healing numerous pains and sicknesses because you have prescribed medicine for me. And I have been thinking about this lately. Two years ago you saved my life when you had me get a stress test when I was having burning in my chest. They found I had a 95% blockage in an artery and gave me a stent. I could have had a heart attack. So you saved my life. So I just want to thank you.

I couldn’t tell through his thick glasses if his eyes were getting moist. But he seemed affected. I went on. “Doctor, I don’t know if you think about this, but you are doing a lot of good to a lot of people. You are bringing healing and relief of pain and comfort to hundreds of people. And you’ve been doing it for years. I hope you know how much good you are doing.

He thanked me and mentioned another man he’d just scheduled for a stress test. Then we shook hands and went on to the next patient. I hope I made his day.

I want to grow in thankfulness. By appreciating my doctor I was also appreciating how God blesses me through him. That’s the next thing I hope to tell him. That what he does represents God in his desire to heal and save lives and bless. Hopefully a visit in the future.

Jesus’ followers should be the most grateful people on the face of the earth. This Christmas, let’s think back over God’s goodness to us this past year and forget not all his benefits.

I Wouldn’t Forget If My Neighbor’s House Were Filled With Frogs…Or Would I?

Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.  Psalm 103:2

“And when the LORD your God brings you into the land that he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you-with great and good cities that you did not build, and houses full of all good things that you did not fill, and cisterns that you did not dig, and vineyards and olive trees that you did not plant-and when you eat and are full, then take care lest you forget the LORD, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.”  Deuteronomy 6:10-12

I forget stuff all the time.  

I forget to buy dog food (how could I when I have so much affection for those two filthy curs – I mean, sweet little bundles of love).  I forget to exercise (on purpose).  Last week I forgot to take the trash out on the appointed day.  Nothing like keeping your stinking garbage an extra week.  Sometimes I forget to take medicine I’m supposed to take – good thing I’m such a paragon of health and vitality.

How easy it is to forget God’s benefits. God warned Israel that when they were enjoying the blessings of the promised land to take care lest they forget how he delivered them from Egypt.  Really? How could they forget all the plagues, a pillar of fire and looking at the walls of water on either side of them as they sallied forth on dry land right through the middle of the Red Sea?  If Pittsburgh were overrun by frogs, and even the Steelers had frogs in their bedrooms, I don’t think I’d forget that.  But God knows our tendency to forget, so he warned Israel about forgetting his mighty deliverance.  And you know what?  They forgot.

We should try to develop the habit of regularly thanking God for his blessings. In everything give thanks. Give thanks continually. We should be the most grateful people on the face of the earth.  Paul prayed for his converts to abound in thanksgiving.

A few suggestions:

When you pray begin with thanks. Enter his gates with thanksgiving.  Before bringing all our requests to God, thank him for a few minutes.  Thank him for the blessings of the previous day.  For helping you on that exam.  For protecting your child.  For a great time in church.

Keep a prayer journal – write down things you are thankful for.  Two or three times a week, before I begin my requests, I take a few minutes to write out my thanks.  A few simple sentences.  Nothing profound.  But it helps me focus and remember to give thanks.

Thank God for all he did to redeem you.  For Jesus’ birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension.  For all Jesus endured to bring you to God.

Thank God for your spouse and children if you have them.  For their lives and health and all God’s mercies to them.

Thank God for spiritual blessings. That he pardons all your sins, joins you to Christ, and adopted you as his child.  For the Holy Spirit and power.  For spiritual gifts. For transforming you into the likeness of his Son.  

Thank God for his word and hundreds of promises.  For promising to hear your prayers, and to be with you when you pass through flood and fire.  For his promises to counsel you and give you wisdom.  For his promises to bless our children.  For his promise to complete the good work he began in you.

Thank God for your church.  Your friends, your home group leader, Your children’s ministry teachers your pastors.

Thank God for material blessings.  For your health and strength.  For your job and apartment or home.  For your car and gas for it.  For your computer and phone and all kinds of other luxuries and conveniences.

Thank God for how he treats you.  For his patience and long-suffering, faithfulness, compassion and sympathy, and his steadfast love.

Thank God for as many mercies as you can discern in every affliction.  For any relief and help.  For somehow working your pain and sadness for your good and God’s glory.  For humbling you through it.  For   his sympathy and compassion toward you.

Thank God for future blessings.  That you will see Jesus face to face and worship and enjoy him forever.  That God has prepared great rewards in heaven for you.  That you will see loved ones again in heaven.  That you will have a resurrection body.  That Jesus will wipe every tear from you eye. 

You get the idea.  

Lord Jesus, thank you, thank you, thank you for all your benefits.  Help us to abound in thankfulness.