By: Brad Rogers
The Bible commands us to give thanks throughout its many pages. If you’re like me, you read that command but struggle to want to give thanks which is ultimately a heart problem. When I do give thanks, I find my prayers of thanksgiving in general are boring and redundant. If this latter problem resonates with you, I want to commend a method of Bible reading that can bring needed variety and specificity to your prayers of thanksgiving, keeping them fresh and genuine (I offer thoughts on the former problem below as well). In our last two blog posts, I have been writing about a particular way of meeting with God that seeks to wed Scripture reading (God speaking to us through His Word) and prayer (we speak to God in prayer). It is certainly by no means the only way to meet with God, but it’s a way that has been very helpful to many. It utilizes what is called the A.C.T.S. model of prayer (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) not only as a means of prayer but also as a means of reading God’s Word. In this model, we read God’s Word and take note of how we can adore God, sin we should confess, thanksgiving we can offer, and requests we should make to God. When we finish reading the Scripture, we take our notes on the passage and pray them back to God. At Redeemer Presbyterian church in Raleigh, we are utilizing the Community Bible Reading (CBR) Journal which uses this method. But you can try this method out and put it into practice whether you are following the CBR reading plan or not. Two weeks ago, I wrote about praise; last week, I wrote about confessing our sins; so this week, I am writing about thanksgiving.
The Importance of Giving Thanks
Romans 1:21 is a verse that has always fascinated me for the way it describes what happens to people when we do not offer thanks to God. “For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.” A lack of honoring God (praise) and giving God thanks compromises one’s ability to think well about ultimate matters. The rest of Romans 1 shows a cesspool of “branch” sins whose roots stem from the heart of a person that fails to honor and give thanks to the God who made us all. It could be said that if you really want to get serious about putting sin to death in your life and becoming more like Jesus, you cannot do so without regularly offering prayers of thanksgiving to God. We struggle to do this because it reveals to us what we don’t naturally want to admit – that we are not spiritually sufficient on our own and are dependent on God for everything. When we suppress thoughts of our dependence on God, we are delusional about reality which ultimately leads to all kinds of wrong thinking and sin. We must offer thanks to God as Scripture commands, or we risk losing our grasp on reality, living in the darkness of maturing sin, and wandering (or running) away from God.
Distinguishing between Thanksgiving and Praise
Thanksgiving is really a sub-category of praise. Distinguishing between the two helps ensure that we follow the many commands in the Bible that ask us to give praise as well as the commands to offer thanksgiving to God. Often when a people distinguish between praise and thanksgiving, they are distinguishing between praising God for His attributes as we see them in Scripture and thanking God for what He has done for us as His people. Praise proper is adoring God for who He is in Himself; for His attributes, His nature, and His person, which leads Him to action in and for this world HE has made. Thanksgiving is giving thanks for all of His loving action towards us and this world. It is good to keep in mind that God is always about redeeming us and this world through Christ, so it’s important to be looking out for how God is working out His plan of redemption in any given passage for which you can offer thanks.
Here are a couple of questions to help you as you note things in Scripture in your reading for the day for which you can thank God. What in this passage leads me to thank God for His goodness to me? What does this passage say about God’s character or work that provides redemption? I like to write down specific things to thank God for as I read a passage of Scripture, but you may want to read the passage as a whole and then write down things for which you can thank God. Sometimes, when I get to the end, I notice I don’t have much in my thanksgiving section and so I go back and skim the passage. I am almost always able to find more things for which to thank God. Since my journal is not big, but my handwriting is, I try to write something short that I can then expand upon when I actually pray these thanksgivings back to God. However, it can help write those few words in ways that help you remember where it came from in the passage you read. Here is a sampling of things I write in the thanksgiving section of my Bible reading journal: “Thank you for saving Abraham in spite of his flaw (so that salvation might ultimately come to me as well). Thank you for preserving Noah; thank you for teaching your disciples about the Kingdom of God. Thank you for choosing and making disciples. Jesus, thank you for taking away my reproach. Thank you for this earth you have made. Thank you for desiring our good when we did not desire yours. Thank you for seeking genuine justice. Thank you for your presence through Jesus. Thank you for defeating Satan. Thank you for providing witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection.” As you can see, these notes are a little unfiltered and unedited for publication, but they are notes that I am using to commune with God in prayer. May your thanksgiving lead you to sweeter fellowship with God and a more realistic view of life in this world.