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One of the concepts that is linked to prayer in the NT on more than one occasion is the giving of thanks to God. Earlier in this series, I quoted a pair of Scripture verses concerning prayer that also mention thanksgiving and I want to reiterate them for this article:

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it with thanksgiving, — Colossians 4:2

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

And here’s a couple more:

Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men… — 1 Timothy 2:1

Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name. — Hebrews 13:15

As you can see, the giving of thanks to God is inextricably linked to the practice of prayer. Any prayer life that consistently excludes thanksgiving is one that will quickly devolve into a sense of entitlement, an attitude that God doesn’t appreciate and will not honor.

And our thankfulness can be expressed for things ranging from the significant and/or supernatural such as our salvation, healing, and financial provision to the comparatively mundane, such as our appreciation of a beautiful day, an amazing sunset, or the cute things our kids do and say — and everywhere in between.

So let’s explore this idea in depth…

Theology Reset!

Out With The Old

As you are reading this, you are witnessing someone undergoing a personal theology change.

For literally decades, I’ve been taught — and indeed have taught to others — that the passage in 1 Thessalonians quoted above makes a crucial distinction in that it says “in” not “for” when it mentions thankfulness.

So the resulting teaching was that we are never to be thankful for:

  • The attacks of Satan
  • The sins of other people against us or others, or;
  • The problems, challenges, or disasters resulting from our living in a lost, fallen, and decaying world

We are to be thankful to God for what He has done:

  • Saved us from then power of sin, death, and hell
  • Made us righteous in His sight by the blood of Jesus
  • Given us His Holy Spirit to live inside us
  • Healed us physically and mentally
  • Delivered us from poverty
  • Put His love in our hearts by the Holy Spirit
  • Made us victorious over the powers of darkness
  • Redeems the sins of others and the trial we face in this world, working them for good
  • Etc., etc.

The practical outworking of this is that, in the midst of trials and temptations and as we are praying against them, we are to remain in an attitude of gratitude towards God for all that He has accomplished in our lives but not for the temptations and trials themselves.

In With The New

Then I as I was researching in preparation for this article, I came across another passage in Ephesians:

Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. — Ephesians 5:17-21

Please note that in the boldfaced text of this verse it uses the word “for” not “in.” The Greek word for “for” (hupo) means precisely that and nowhere else in the NT is hupo ever translated as “in.” And “all” means precisely that: all, without exception. So no matter how hard I tried, I could not reconcile this verse with my previous theology on the subject.

Attempted square peg in round hole alert! DANGER! DANGER, Will Robinson! 🙂

So what’s a believer — even a minister and theologian — supposed to do when the Bible contradicts his theology? The answer is simple, but difficult: change his theology to conform to the Scriptures!

So what are the implications of this change? Does it completely negate my 11-article Acts of God—NOT! series dedicated to refuting the Calvinist error that God causes pain, calamity, loss, destruction, and death in order to teach us something?

Actually, not at all!

Here are some another salient passages we need to consider:

My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing. — James 1:2-4

But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. — 1 Corinthians 15:57

Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. — 2 Corinthians 2:14

For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith. — 1 John 5:4

So what I now believe is accurate theology concerning thanksgiving and trials is this:

  • We continue to never, ever attribute the trials in our lives to God, but;
  • Thank Him not only for the wonderful things in our lives but also for the current challenges we face because they are opportunities for Him to show Himself strong on our behalf
  • We do this knowing in advance that He has given us a surpassing victory over them through the finished work of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. In other words, the Cross and the Resurrection trump all!
  • And because of all that, we can rejoice in the midst of the trials, tribulations, and disasters we may face, knowing that the faith and patience we develop during that process will stand us in good stead when facing future challenges.

When it is all said and done — if we persevere by His grace — we win! We may be bloodied and scarred, but we are ultimately victorious in this life.

I’ve already delved into the concept that God uses the temptations, trials, and troubles we face in this life to develop our faith and character without Him being the Author of those things in my tenth article in the Acts of God—NOT! series, so I won’t re-invent that wheel here.

Thanksgiving is Our Faith’s Partner

Why do I say this? Because our thanksgiving is a crucial element in supporting our faith. So what do I mean by this?

If I promise you something, for you to be able to thank me for it in advance of your actually receiving it, you must be assured in your heart and mind that I will in fact give it to you. So when we thank God for something we’ve prayed for before the answer has manifested, it puts us automatically into an assumption that we will receive it. The bottom line is that it keeps our faith on track and focussed on God’s faithfulness to honor His promises.

Ask Once, Thank Many

There are verses that imply that we should persist in prayer over an issue yet doesn’t that very need for persistence cause our minds to call into question whether we will indeed receive it? Or that we need pray until we reach some unknown-to-us-but-known-to-God level of achievement that earns us an answer to our prayers, an assumption based on dead religious works, rather than grace?

God has already given us everything that we need in the spirit realm and done so generously beyond our capacity to imagine. He does not have to be persuaded, cajoled, or otherwise “talked into” answering our prayers. As it says in Romans:

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? — Romans 8:31-32

So we are not in the business of persuading God to give us something through our puny human efforts at being religious, but rather allowing God’s Word to renew our minds to the fact that whatever we are praying for is already ours through the finished work of the Cross and it is the world, our flesh, and the devil who oppose that fact, trying to rob us of what is already ours in the spirit realm.

So the solution I’ve discovered over the years is the concept of “ask once, thank many.” That means that at the outset, I pray and ask God for whatever it is I’m requesting of Him, receiving it as my own according to Mark 11:24 (and truth be told, thanking Him for the result at the outset). From then on until the answer is manifested, I’m in thanksgiving mode, always thanking God for His answer to that prayer.

Putting Faith & Thanksgiving Together

Now we will unpack yet another Scripture passage inextricably linking prayer to the concept of thanksgiving. I saved this one until last rather than lumping it with the rest of the verses quote above because I want to delve into this one in much greater depth.

Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy — meditate on these things. — Philippians 4:6-8

So let’s unpack this, starting with a look at some Greek definitions for key terms used in the passage:

anxious (merimnao)
  1. to be anxious
    1. to be troubled with cares
  2. to care for, look out for (a thing)
    1. to seek to promote one’s interests
    2. caring or providing for
nothing (medeis)
nobody, no one, nothing
everything (pas)
each, every, any, all, the whole, everyone, all things, everything
peace (eirene)
  1. a state of national tranquillity
    1. exemption from the rage and havoc of war
  2. peace between individuals, i.e. harmony, concord
  3. security, safety, prosperity, felicity, (because peace and harmony make and keep things safe and prosperous)
  4. of the Messiah’s peace
    1. the way that leads to peace (salvation)
  5. of Christianity, the tranquil state of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is
  6. the blessed state of devout and upright men after death
surpasses (huperecho)
to excel, to be superior, better than, to surpass
understanding (nous)
  1. the mind, comprising alike the faculties of perceiving and understanding and those of feeling, judging, determining
    1. the intellectual faculty, the understanding
    2. reason in the narrower sense, as the capacity for spiritual truth, the higher powers of the soul, the faculty of perceiving divine things, of recognising goodness and of hating evil
    3. the power of considering and judging soberly, calmly and impartially
  2. a particular mode of thinking and judging, i.e thoughts, feelings, purposes, desires
guard (phroureo)
to guard, protect by a military guard, by watching and guarding to preserve one for the attainment of something
meditate (logizomai)
  1. to reckon, count, compute, calculate, count over
    1. to take into account, to make an account of
    2. metaph. to pass to one’s account, to impute
    3. a thing is reckoned as or to be something, i.e. as availing for or equivalent to something, as having the like force and weight
    4. to number among, reckon with
    5. to reckon or account
  2. to reckon inward, count up or weigh the reasons, to deliberate
  3. by reckoning up all the reasons, to gather or infer
    1. to consider, take into account, weigh, meditate on
    2. to suppose, deem, judge

NOTE: This term deals with facts, not suppositions or assumptions. If I “logizomai” that I have X amount of money in my bank account, I actually have X amount in my bank account.

So using these definitions, let’s construct our own home-brew “Amplified Version” translation of this verse:

Do not be anxious, fearful, fretful, troubled with cares, or promoting your own self-interests for anyone or anything, but in everything without exception by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, make your requests and petitions known to God; and the peace of God [that state of tranquility of a soul assured of its salvation through Christ, and so fearing nothing from God and content with its earthly lot, of whatsoever sort that is, that peace] which far surpasses our limited human ability to understand [comprehend or grasp intellectually], will mount guard over and protect your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are of godly and honorable character, whatever things are holy and righteous, whatever things are pure and free of carnality and every fault, whatever things are acceptable and pleasing, whatever things are spoken well of, if there is any moral excellence and if there is anything worthy of commendation or praise — consider and act on these things as your true reality, whether you can see them or not.

And since our expanded version of verse 8 above defines the very essence of both faith and godly character, we can see in this one 3-verse passage the integration of prayer, thanksgiving, and faith and how they cooperate together in affirming God and His Word as the Answer to our earthly and spiritual needs.

Conclusion

So as we can see, thanksgiving is an integral part of a vital and successful prayer life. In a paraphrase of an old American Express TV commercial:

Thanksgiving: don’t leave your prayer closet without it!

Thanks for reading!