A couple of weeks ago, I shared in my post, Thanking My Way to Gladness, what I have been learning personally about the benefits of having a thankful heart. Today, I’d like to go a little deeper into that topic, based on what I am continuing to learn.
There are many Bible verses that talk about thanksgiving. We all know that we are supposed to thank God for Who He is and for all that He does for us. Sometimes we might feel a little guilty, knowing we don’t always remember to thank Him as we should. Thanksgiving brings glory to Him: “… that the abundant grace might, through the thanksgiving of many, redound to the glory of God” (2 Corinthians 4:15).
But God has been showing me another dimension of thanksgiving, beyond it being our proper response to God’s goodness:
It is a gateway to answered prayer.
Scripture clearly links thankfulness with prayer, as we shall see. I’m not talking about thanking Him once the desired answer shows up on our doorstep. Of course we should do that. I’m talking about thanking Him before the answer arrives. There is a reason this makes sense.
Philippians 4:6, 7 tells us, “Do not be care-filled about anything; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
This verse is not only referring to thanking God for past answers or in a general way for His goodness. Some people do that as a sort of ritual, to butter God up so that He will answer their current prayer. That’s not sincere, and I have an idea that it grieves Father’s heart. (How would you feel if your children cozied up to you and gushed all over you, just so they could get something out of you?) Now, when I am petitioning God for things, I do thank Him for all His past faithfulness and for His goodness — but it is out of true gratefulness, not to hoodwink Him into giving me the next item that I want or need. And it builds my faith to remind myself of past answered prayer, too.
Philippians 4:6 is actually talking about thanking Him for the current thing we are requesting. Why would we do that, if we haven’t gotten it yet? 1 John 5:14, 15 gives us a clue: “And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. and if we know that he hears us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him.” We thank Him because the answer is already ours the very moment we ask — even though it may take a little time to evidence itself in our natural realm. We have confidence that He has heard and has answered, because He promised that if we would ask anything in His name, He would do it for us (John 14: 13, 14). We thank Him because our answer is already a reality.
Apostle Paul clearly linked prayer and thanksgiving together, in Colossians 4:2: “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving.”
And when teaching on speaking in tongues, he had this to say: “… When you bless with the spirit, how shall he who is unlearned say ‘Amen’ to your giving of thanks, seeing he does not understand what you are saying? For you truly give thanks well, but the other is not edified” (1 Corinthians 14:16, 17).
When we speak in tongues, whether publicly or in private prayer, thanksgiving is at least part of what we are speaking. When we use our prayer language as part of our petitioning, the Holy Spirit is releasing perfect prayers through us (see Romans 8:26, 27 and also my series, The Power of Your Prayer Language). Much of what He is praying through us is thanksgiving, and although we cannot say for sure, it is highly possible that the thanksgiving we are thus sending heavenward is in connection with our current petition.
Next time, I’d like to share with you a story in the Bible that further illustrates thanksgiving as a gateway to answered prayer. It was something I had never seen before, and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I have.