I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you. -Psalm 119:11
By Diana Rose (WITHIN Devotional Contributor)
No one expected this. A global pandemic, political tensions and social unrest. Death, division and displacement. As a church we are weeping with those who weep.
During this time marked with great suffering and deep grief God’s people have responded with compassionate prayer, yet centuries before the events of this year came to pass the church was commanded to pray and to pray “with thanksgiving.” These commands may seem simplistic at first glance, but I discovered three specific struggles that often hinder me from praying with thanksgiving.
Technology and Social Media
How often do we reach for our phones, clicking the familiar colorful icons we pressed the day (or moments) before? Instagram, email, news updates, Pinterest, click, swipe, scroll. Like Alice in Wonderland we find ourselves following the white rabbit of distraction down a hole that can lead our hearts to thoughts of anxiety, depression, envy, self-loathing, fear, judgement and anger. I am quick to look to the internet for distraction and slow to look to Jesus in gratitude.
Have you ever been in your prayer closet whispering, “thank you God for this day,” expecting to bring all your heart to the Lord in prayer, and suddenly the thought battle begins? The grocery lists, calendar conflicts, and current events swirl around in your mind till you’re dizzy, rerouting your focus. Or darker thoughts, comparisons, inadequacies, and fantasies that pull you under hijacking your attention. I am easily sidetracked by random or habitual thoughts when I am trying to commune with Jesus.
How many times have you prayed for that lost loved one, for deliverance from a prolonged trial, for healing for a broken body? Asking for physical needs to be met, seeking for wisdom with work, knocking for justice (like the widow in Luke 18) for weeks, months and sometimes years. Even with the knowledge that God is sovereign over all, and that His timing is perfect, I am often discouraged by seemingly unanswered prayer.
It is in these struggles that I need God’s Word. “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” -1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NASB and “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” -Philippians 4:6 NASB
Notice how prayer is coupled with giving thanks. They always go hand in hand, and we have much to be thankful for starting with our great God. The Lord knows our weakness and He cares for His chosen ones. He sent His Son Jesus because of His steadfast love for us. These three truths are the perfect foundation from which to launch into thanksgiving.
God knows us. Give thanks!
God cares for us. Give thanks!
He sent His Son out of love for us. Give thanks!
When we thank God for who He is and what He has done our focus shifts from our desires and demands to His goodness and glory. When the feed on my device starts to take my heart captive I can go to God in prayer and give Him thanks for who He is. When my thoughts start to run away from me during prayer I can course correct with gratitude for God’s faithfulness and steadfast love. When I am discouraged and weary in prayer, I can persevere giving thanks to God for His care trusting His will for this life is best. I can give thanks always for Jesus who laid down His life for mine.
Jesus lived a sinless life, and He lived an exemplary life of faithful prayer, even teaching His disciples (and us) how to pray. Right now, He is in glory interceding for His saints. I can give thanks for His example, and His faithfulness!
“Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;” -Psalm 103:2
The benefits of prayer are many. As an exercise I made a list of some reasons we ought to pray with thanksgiving:
● We are both spiritually and physically needy.
● We are weak and broken, living in a broken world.
● We are not in control of our lives or other people, and we do not know the future.
● To worship and praise God.
● To confess and repent of our sins.
● To commune with our heavenly Father.
● To ask for help in times of trouble.
● To align ourselves with the will of God.
This list is short and by no means exhaustive, but it’s a good place to begin when we struggle to pray with thanksgiving.
Prayer: Lord I cry out to you because I am weak and needy. Life is unpredictable and so much of it is out of my control. Forgive me for giving my attention to vain things and help me to turn my thoughts back to you with a thankful heart. Thank you for Jesus who knows my struggle, who taught us how to pray, and who is interceding for His saints even now. In Jesus name, amen!
The weekly devotionals seek to encourage you to dig deeper into Scripture as you take the time to daily read, meditate, and internalize the verses in the devotional, along with the passages provided below to give greater context. Take the time to read them throughout the week (repetition is important) and ask the Holy Spirit to help you grasp what God is showing you about Himself, about you, and how to live in light of these truths.
Passages to read/memorize/meditate:
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Questions to Reflect on:
1. What gets in the way of you praying with thanksgiving?
2. List 3 things you can give thanks for in prayer.
3. List 3 benefits of prayer.