The Prayer of Thanksgiving
“Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”- Colossians 4:2
Continuing our look at the acrostic ACTS as a framework for prayer, we come today to the T—thanksgiving. God-honoring prayer includes not only adoration and confession, but it also expresses gratitude to the Lord for His good gifts. Scripture frequently exhorts us to include thanksgiving in our prayers, with today’s passage being just one example (Col. 4:2).
We can discern at least two reasons why thanksgiving is a key element of prayer that honors our Creator. First, thanksgiving stands in opposition to one of our most fundamental sins. In Romans 1:18–32, Paul looks at fallen humanity and describes the many sins into which people have fallen. However, the text shows us that all of our transgressions are really the fruit of two primordial sins, two key wicked acts and dispositions that give birth to all others: idolatry and ingratitude. Apart from grace, we are guilty before God because although we know about God from the created order, we worship idols instead of the one, true God and we are not thankful to Him (v. 21). Idolatry and ingratitude form the core of our fallenness, and although we are decisively changed in our regeneration and conversion, the tendency toward idolatry and ingratitude remains. The only way to fight ingratitude is to cultivate a thankful disposition, which we do by thanking God for His good gifts when we pray.
A second reason for including thanksgiving in our prayers has to do with our forgetfulness. In Luke 17:11–19, we read of an occasion when Jesus healed ten lepers while He was traveling between Samaria and Galilee. The striking thing is that only one of the ten came back to thank Him. Typically, we think that the other nine lepers were not grateful for their healing, but that is not the real problem. No one could have been more thankful to be healed than those lepers; even those who did not verbalize their thanks were surely grateful to have been restored to health. But nine lepers never expressed their gratitude. Why? A likely explanation is that they, like the rest of us, took God’s blessings for granted. How easy it is for us to ask the Lord for ten things in prayer, receive nine of them, and then to dwell on the one thing to which He said no. We do not remember the myriad of ways in which God has blessed us but instead focus on what we have not received. Thanking God for His specific blessings assists us in remembering His goodness and mercy, helping us not to take them for granted.
As fallen creatures, we are inclined to take the Lord and His gifts for granted, and we frequently forget all that He has done for us. When we make it a practice to remember what the Lord has done for us and to thank Him, we help to keep the sin of ingratitude at bay. What can you thank God for in prayer this day?
Passages for Further Study