Thanksgiving and the Pilgrims

Pray ... with Thanksgiving

by Dr. Ralph F. Wilson

Pray with Thanksgiving, image from 2-minute video
Available as a 2-minute video that can be used to spice up a Thanksgiving sermon at your church. View video.
I've heard a lot of droopy prayers in my life. Hey, I've prayed a lot of them, too.

  • Prayers of desperation — God, you've got to help me!
  • Prayers of self-pity — God, things are so awful!
  • Prayers of resignation — God, if you want to leave me unemployed, then I can't stop you!

But I'm learning how to pray a different kind of prayer — prayer said with thanksgiving. I learned it from St. Paul who, writing from prison, taught me a most powerful lesson. He said,

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."1

Strange. Here he is suffering himself, yet he's telling me to pray with thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is the seasoning that makes our prayers edible to God. After all, who wants to hear people whine all the time? I've learned that you can't whine and give thanks in the same breath. Self-pity and thankfulness don't mix any better than oil and water.

In fact, mixing thanks with prayer somehow changes it. When we remember what God has done for us in the past and think about who he is in the present — and express that in thankfulness — our prayers become more gentle, more trusting somehow. Thankful prayers are offered with faith. And faith is an essential ingredient for prayers that God chooses to answer.

We remember the Pilgrims on Thanksgiving Day, not so much for their turkey dinner, but for the sheer faith that inspired them to give thanks in a year that saw nearly half their number die of sickness. Yet they prayed with thanksgiving.

When your annual day of feasting is over, you may bemoan your extra helpings of dressing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie. But if you can hang on to the "thanks" part of Thanksgiving, you'll be a different person. Because when you learn to talk to God about your needs — mixed with a healthy dose of heartfelt thanks — then you have crossed the divide from whining at God to real prayer.

Happy thanks-giving!

_______________

1. Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Copyright © 1985-2014, Ralph F. Wilson. <pastor@joyfulheart.com> All rights reserved. A single copy of this article is free. Do not put this on a website. See legal, copyright, and reprint information.

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