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?