Session 4: Thanksgiving
How to Experience God in Prayer
Busyness, entitlement, envy, and greed can keep us from expressing our gratitude to the God who gives us every good gift. Being thankful honors God for the many blessings he has gifted to us.
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Online Discipleship: How to Experience God in Prayer
Part 4: Thanksgiving
Welcome to session four on How to Experience God in Prayer. I have to say, it’s exciting for me just to walk through this process with you. So far, we have learned there are four distinct words in the New Testament for prayer. And they make an acronym ACTS: adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication.
By way of review, here’s our passage: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God,” and then here’s the promise, “and the peace of God,” the shalom of God, “that surpasses all understanding will,” literally, “guard,” or act as a sentry, as an arbitrator, “in your heart.”
It’s experiencing God. He invites you and me to be in conversation in the car, early in the morning, before we go to bed, and even while someone else is talking, we can talk to Him.
We have talked about the adoration, and we have talked about what it means to begin to confess honestly from our heart. The next phrase is: “with thanksgiving.” It’s a word that is compound. The first part of the word means: well. The second part of the word means: to give freely; gratitude. So it’s good or to be well. It’s to have thoughts and feelings of gratitude.
I love one commentator. He said, “This is like sprinkling salt and pepper on a meal.” You might be giving praise as I did this morning and, as I did, I just couldn’t help but to pause and say, “Oh, Lord, thank You for how You have made things.” Even as I was confessing early this morning and thinking about some things that kind of broke my heart, I remembered, “Oh, God, thank You. As far as the east is from the west, I am forgiven, I am Your son, You love me.”
But I think there’s a big role to give thanks. And let me tell you why this is so important. When you actively and proactively give thanks, it forces your focus off your problems. It forces your focus on who God really is.
In other words, when I am thanking God for everything and in everything – you heard me right – thanking God for everything and in everything. 1 Thessalonians chapter 5, verses 16 through 18 says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks,” are you ready? “For this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.
So, it’s an act of the will; it’s not just feelings. It’s choosing, regardless of what is happening, where I say “thank you.” And to thank God for the good, for the difficult, for the unknown, for the big decision that you don’t know exactly what you should do, and for the challenging relationship.
This isn’t a play with your mind, “Oh, God, I thank You” like in my case, a few years ago, my wife had cancer. I didn’t say, “Oh, thank You” tritely. I said, “Thank You, God, that You are sovereign, that You are all-knowing, that You love my wife. I don’t know what is going to happen.” Thankfully, she came through it, but I could say, “Thank You”, because what I am now doing is I am surrendering and acknowledging an all-powerful, all-knowing God. It’s this practice of thanksgiving.
I don’t know about you but, when I wake up in the morning and I have a lot of pressure, or during the day when I feel overwhelmed, this has been my go-to prayer.
I have a little journal here. I know everyone doesn’t keep a journal but, for some of us that your mind wanders, you’re maybe a little ADD, that’s me. So most mornings I start with giving praise and thanking God. This is just a typical morning, a few mornings ago. Hebrews 13:15 came to my mind, “Through Him, then let us offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.”
Lord, I thank You so much for how You have helped me this week in battling discouragement. Thank You, Jesus, for Theresa, her good health and how You are allowing her to experience energy and joy again (she had been sick.) Thank You for the news that my daughter is going to have a baby. Lord, thank You so much for Jerry and the incredible help (he’s a guy that I work with), and his kindness that he helped me line out my schedule for the whole year. Thank You for the motivation to swim and workout. (I had an injury in my back and I have got to work out and it’s hard.)
But here are two pages. It probably took me three or four minutes, but it was like a machine gun: Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. And what it did is it altered my perspective.
In fact, the psalmist, we are going to give you a little psalm to learn how to thank God. Psalm 100, it says, “Shout joyfully for the Lord. Serve the Lord with gladness; come into His presence with joyful singing. Know that the Lord Himself is God. It is He who made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture.” And then I love this, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving, His courts with praise; give thanks to Him, bless His name.” Why? “For the Lord is good, His loving-kindness is everlasting, and His faithfulness to all generations.”
I want you to know that, when you are discouraged especially, that giving thanks, choosing to thank God, will change your perspective. You will begin to experience a peace that happens in your heart. Adoration, confession, thanksgiving – it’s how we respond to the difficulties, the struggles, and the challenges of life.
The Lord wants you to experience His kindness, His compassion, and His love. He says there is a way to pray to do that, and that’s what we are talking about.
I want you to practice thanksgiving until our next time and see if God doesn’t show up in a powerful way.