A Prayer of Thanksgiving

This prayer was originally published on my old blog in 2012. It’s no less true today. Happy Thanksgiving!

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Father, Provider,Comforter, Deliverer, I have much to thank You for today. You have given me so many blessings, and for many such as food, shelter, clothing, and health I have expressed my gratitude numerous times. Yet there are blessings I have neglected to thank You for, in part because I have only recently recognized some elements of my life as blessings.

Betsie Ten Boom once thanked You for the fleas in the filthy concentration camp barracks she was imprisoned in, only later to discover that it was the fleas that enabled Your word to be spread and shared without interference from the guards. She was wiser than I and recognized that Your blessings do not always come dressed in a package the human mind appreciates. I have neglected to thank You for the “fleas” in my life, and today I intend to do so.

Lord, thank You for long, friendless spans of time in my pre-Christ life. Those periods of separation, though they chafed at the time, prepared me to walk the narrow path unaccompanied at times when I find that it is necessary to choose between walking alone or forsaking Your way. Thank You that feeling rejected then has galvanized me against being rejected now, for the zeal I now have for You and Your Word is not always readily embraced, and I again find myself categorized as a freak, albeit for better reasons this time around!

 Thank You that the same loneliness left me with a tremendous ache that was oh, so ready to be soothed by Your love. My heart had been seared by suppressed anger, by fear and rejection, and by my own bad choices, and it was calloused and numb. The shock of meeting You, the realness of You, pierced through and made a start from which You began Your patient work of pruning. It hurt, but I knew somehow even then that it was worth it–that You were worth it. Thank You for carefully debriding and then healing the fathomless wounds of my heart.

 Thank You for bringing me away from my hometown, for causing every friend I thought I had to desert me, for showing me the intense suffering of a young person dying of cancer, and for bringing me to the point of questioning every worldly philosophy my non-believing self had embraced. Without being confronted with death, I may have never found life. Without that sobering morbidity thrust into my directionless, bar-hopping lifestyle, I may have continued in my flippant attitude about death, life, and all things Christian. Thank You for forgiving me of the disrespectful manner towards You that was my custom at the time. Thank You, also, that in those small acts of betrayal and desertion, in the agonies I witnessed, and in the death of self I experienced, I am not alone. Jesus, too, experienced those things, and so I know my Redeemer can also empathize.

Thank You for the headaches and other pains of aging today that are a constant reminder that the outer man is wasting away but the inner man is being renewed day by day. Thank You, too, for the increasing slips of my mind and waning of physical strength that remind me that Your power is perfected in weakness. In the relentless decay of self, I find that apart from You I truly can do nothing.

Thank You for allowing me to walk through times of darkness and despair in my Christian life, for in those bleak spells I have learned that You truly are with me wherever I go even through the valley of the shadow of death. Thank You, also, that in those times of desolation You have stripped away all the consolations of religious feeling, all my pride, and even the sense of gratification that comes of service to others or to You. You have utterly flayed my soul until all of me was raw and naked, weeping before You.

Painful as that those times were, in them I have found that at last I know where my allegiance honestly lies and it is no longer to myself. With my spirit laid bare and bereft even of the longing for You and the satisfaction of knowing You, You gave me the blessing at last of utter assurance in this: I cannot be separated from You. When You asked me, “Would you, also, like to leave Me?”  I can now echo Peter in saying, “Lord, to whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life!”

 Thank You for the times of financial crisis my husband and I have been through. I thank You specifically for the time when we had a single car, single income, both a baby and a mother-in-law to support, a tiny duplex where we all lived, no television, basic phone service, no Internet, and no cell phones. Though it did not make sense, we chose to forsake my income and obey Your voice that I should stay home with our infant and our future children. We learned so much: That You truly provide for our needs always, that there is a very distinct difference in what we need and what we want, that You bless obedience even when obedience does not make human sense.

We are in a different stage of life now, Lord, and we have so much that I sometimes take it for granted. I find I am now feeling that my needs have increased  when in fact it is only my wants that have increased. Lord, forgive me for presuming upon Your provision and thank You for the lessons You taught me in poverty. Should You choose to remove all the material gifts You have lavished on us, I will still follow You. You are my God. You are my Portion. You are my Reward.

And I am Yours, wholly Yours. Thank You for all the blessings of pain, irritation, and desolation that have brought me to this conclusion. Thank You for the fleas–every last one of them

Attitude

Devote yourselves to prayer; stay alert in it with thanksgiving.

Colossians 4:2, HCSB

I know I’ve said it before, but we really are a funny people.

It’s ironic that my country celebrates a national holiday devoted to giving thanks for what we have, then finishes the day off with a commercial holiday in which many retail businesses sell enough merchandise to shift their financial ledgers from red to black (from loss to profit).

“Black Friday” doesn’t even start on Friday anymore, people! Let that one sink in a moment. Evidently, in this nation of wealth and abundance, we can’t even spend nine or ten daylight hours in a state of gratitude and contentment.

I could pick on the fact that, if you were to create a linear graph, you’d probably find the increasing secularization of the good old USA has follows an inverse linear curve to the gradual encroachment of retail sales into Thanksgiving day. I suppose if you’re offering gratitude to an ambiguous nothingness as opposed to acknowledging God as the Provider to Whom we give thanks, there’s really less of a reason to devote an entire day… but I won’t pick on this one.

Instead, I’ll pick on me.

In a recent reading of Colossians in my late Pappaw’s NASB Bible, chapter 4 verse 2 in the NASB grabbed me by the throat. It hasn’t really let go since.

Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving…

Colossians 4:2, NASB

Devote yourselves to prayer… with an attitude of thanksgiving.

As a sinner saved by the unmerited grace of the God I once denounced and by the sacrifice of Yeshua Messiah whom I formerly laughed off as a fable, my whole being really should resonate with thanksgiving. I’ve been forgiven for denying the One who loved me enough to take the death sentence I deserve for my crimes!

For this alone, I ought to have gratitude to God in all circumstances. All of them. Period. After all, no matter what happens to me in the 80-odd years (give or take) I spend on this atmosphere-cushioned ball of rock and water, I’ve been granted an eternal life that I don’t deserve during which I will forever revel in the joy of the King of kings!

But beyond that unimaginable gift, my King has also granted me food, shelter, healthy kids, a loving husband… and the list goes on and on and on. Recently, He has answered a few prayers in overwhelming ways – some of them quickly!!

Yet I’ve realized that when I pray, what I focus on is not the hundreds of granted requests, but the handful I still wait to see. My heart is weighed down by the list of lost people or bleak situations who show no glimmers of interest in the Lord, no hopeful sparks of light.

I focus, not on the abundance God has lavished on me, but on the concerns I’ve yet to see resolved.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of walking with a long-time close friend, and she mentioned how we are both seeing God at work now in both people and situations we fervently prayed together over for years.

During some of the darkest times we shared with each other, lifting up our families in prayer, we never even saw so much as the twitch of God’s finger. His hands remained – almost maddeningly – still.

But now… Yesterday, we both walked and gave thanks together for the many ways we’ve recently seen Him moving in those very same situations.

And so, my friends, not only this week, but from here on out, I am resolved to keep track of the ways I see my God at work, both in the large and the small ways.

I am resolved (Lord help me to keep this commitment!!) to devote myself to prayer with an attitude of thanksgiving, looking forward with gratitude to see how my King is mighty to redeem even the most damaged, hardened, and imprisoned heart.

Will you join me?

… For we do not present our pleas before you because of our righteousness, but because of your great mercy. O Lord, hear; O Lord, forgive. O Lord, pay attention and act. Delay not, for your own sake, O my God, because your city and your people are called by your name.

Daniel 9:18b-19

Lord God, our King and our Redeemer, today I come before Your throne in humility and in repentance. Once again, I have allowed fear to eclipse my faith in You. Once again, I’ve given way to anxiety instead of clinging to Your promises. Again, my mind has strayed from contemplation of Your faithfulness to mull over my own failures.

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…

2 Corinthians 10:5

Forgive me, Lord, and help me to truly take every thought captive to obey Christ! Let me not fall prey to despair when my family seems to be far from You, but help me instead to rejoice in You no matter what.

Forgive me for being silent in the face of those who resist discussing Your goodness. Instead, Lord, let my mouth be full of praise to You and my heart filled to the overflow of my love for You. Remind me that even when it seems I walk alone, I am never alone. You are with me.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

Despite my frailty, despite my weakness and my ineptitude, Lord, You are still King. You are still on Your throne. Help me to be mindful of this fact, trusting that You can reach the hearts of my family and awaken in them a knowledge of the true depths of Your grace – even if I have failed in every way to present You to them.

For though You are gracious to use me, You do not need me to do Your work, Lord. Like a loving Father, You allow me to participate in Your work. But You are the Craftsman. You are the Master – the One who reshapes my blunders and does the work I cannot do.

But now, O LORD, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand.

Isaiah 64:*

I look to You to bring all of my family into right relationship with my Lord Yeshua Messiah. I look to Your Spirit to move in their hearts, shattering idols, quickening true passion for the things of God, slaying pride, and stirring up a keen desire for righteousness and holiness.

I cannot do this work, Lord, nor can my worry over it accomplish anything more than exposing the weakness of my faith. Return my mind once more to a contemplation of the glory of my King, and keep my eyes fixed forever on the light of Your goodness and grace.

Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:2-3

May my heart be so filled with Your Spirit that the natural overflow of my lips is praise to You. Let my vocal and constant worship of You point others ceaselessly to Your glory.

And Lord, do a mighty work within my family, please. For Your Name’s sake, do not delay but act. Change our hearts so that we seek first Your Kingdom and Your righteousness in unity, together walking in Your light through this dark world. May our family truly be one who can say, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord;” Amen!

Tuesday Prayer: Conquered

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

Romans 8:31, 37

Lord of Hosts, Your might is greater than anything in the heavens above or on earth beneath. You are truly Almighty – powerful beyond measure, capable of all things, able to overcome. There is no person or situation too far for Your reach or too broken for You to use. Praise be to You, our Conqueror and King!

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

1 John 4:4

Thank You, Lord, that by Your grace, we share in the victory won by Your Son on the cross! In Him, bought by His blood, we are more than conquerors, no longer held captive by sin nor defeated by any evil from without or temptation within.

Our enemy, however, would like us to believe otherwise. He calls our attention to the broken chains lying at our feet, reminding us of how they bit into our flesh when we were in bondage to sin. He exploits those tender spots and whispers to us that we will never be free.

…He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

John 8:44b

But he is a liar; the accuser of both God and man and the father of lies.

When that old snake sends cold coils of dread around our hearts, tempting us to despair of escaping some besetting sin or to doubt Your goodness, Lord, remind us of our victory in Jesus. Remind us of Your favor, of the Throne of Grace where we may find help, and of Your armor by which we can stand firm and resist the devil’s schemes.

Then, Lord, strengthen our faith. Help us to stand when we feel weakened and frail. Give us the heart to continue in battle, not growing weary but believing that You are able to keep us in the right way. Remind us to be diligent in Your Word, steadfast in prayer, humble in heart, and walking in trusting obedience to You in all things.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.

Ephesians 6:10-11

And when our circumstances seem dismal or we are in fear for the souls of some lost loved one, remind us that You truly do work all things for the good of those who love you. May our obedience, joy, and trust be a light that guides others to share in the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, amen.

Tuesday Prayer: Forsaking Sin

Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. Blessed is the one who fears the LORD always, but whoever hardens his heart will fall into calamity. 

Proverbs 28:13-14

Gracious Savior, we are so very thankful that You are patient and merciful; slow to anger, always just, and perfect in keeping Your covenant loyalty to Your people. Thank You for making us Yours! We are honored to be considered Your children and grateful beyond measure at Your forgiveness.

But you, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness.

Psalms 86:14

Lord, today we freely confess that we do try to hide our sin – either attempting foolishly to hide it from Your eyes by justifying it away or trying to hide it from others in numerous ways.

Sometimes we tell anecdotes in a way that paints our part in the best possible light. Other times, we merely conceal selfish motives or other sinful ways. We even try to hide our sins from ourselves, preferring justification to confession.

Please forgive us of such nonsense. Beginning today, let Your Spirit so work in our heart that we are unable to deny our sin when He exposes it. Drive us to live openly, freely confessing sin each time so that our habit becomes confession rather than hiding or excuse-making.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Romans 12:2

Then, Lord, compel us to forsake our sin utterly. Make our transgressions abhorrent to us so that we rush to shun them. Train our hearts in appropriate fear of You; that we would each look to You as the measure of our behavior and desires rather than to mankind or culture.

May our hearts be aligned with Your will for us and our desires be in harmony with Your desire, Lord. Change our habits so that we can truly be a chosen race, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation who in every way gladly, freely, and honestly proclaim the excellency of the One who has brought us into the Light of Truth, amen. 

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

1 Peter 2:9


Tuesday Prayer: Pleasing

“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. 

Joel 2:12-13

Oh Lord, You are truly gracious and merciful, patient with us beyond reason and compassionate though we’ve done nothing to deserve it. Your grace is a gift that we prize. Help us to rejoice in it above all else!

Thank You for repaying our rebellion with mercy, our wickedness with kindness, and our animosity with forgiveness. You are our King and our lives are Yours! May we forever praise Your name.

The LORD passed before him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,

Exodus 34:6

When we fail You, Lord, as we are prone to do, help us to return to You fully, holding nothing back. Keep us from believing the enemy’s lies that once we have erred, we may as well continue in error. Instead, Lord, we ask for Godly grief over our sin which leads us to repentance each and every time.

Let our lives reflect a continual turning away from sin and turning to our God, submitting ourselves again and again before the Throne of Grace. As we learn to walk humbly before You, teach us not to worry about what other people think.

If our repentance looks foolish to others, so be it. If we appear prudish or old-fashioned or whatever else, Lord, let us only be concerned about whether our thoughts and actions are pleasing to You. Help us to discern what those things are and then walk in them. 

…so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

Colossians 1:10

May we truly become pleasers of God and not of mankind; walking in Truth and not the wisdom of the world which is foolishness in Your eyes. Train our hearts to trust Your ways – the ancient and eternal paths which have been tested and proven by generations before us. Even more, train our hearts to trust the narrow Way which has been tested and proven in and by our Lord Jesus Christ.

As our trust in You deepens and our ways begin to look different to those around us, help us to share with confidence the reason for the hope that is in us. May our words match our deeds and may it all bring glory and honor to You, our King, amen. 

Tuesday Prayer: Abba

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 

Ephesians 5:1-2

Abba, with all sincerity of heart we declare today that You are our hero. No fictional superhero, no movie or social media personality, and no athlete of any caliber can ever come close to matching Your splendor and perfection.

Indeed, the brightest star among us would show up as a dark blotch against Your pure radiance and glory. Just imagining it, Lord, I want to fall to my knees in worship! You are so, so good! Thank You that in all Your omnipotence, You deign to let us call you “Abba.” Thank You for loving us even when we were poor, blind, and wretched in our sins.

For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

Romans 8:15

And You do truly love us, God – let that just resonate in our minds for a moment. Let us simply try to comprehend that the Most High, the Almighty loves us. We can only touch the surface of it and already we are swallowed in awe.

Oh Abba, help us to get our minds around this to the extent that a mortal, created thing can comprehend the infinite wonder of Your love. Pierce us with the beauty of it so that every earthly hero we’ve ever held dear pales and withers in our imaginations. Align our hearts with Your perfect purpose so that our honest and heartfelt desire is to imitate You – our Lord, our King, our loving Creator. 

Then as our tender Father, hold our hands as we wobble and teeter in our efforts to walk in Your footsteps. Strengthen our weak knees and guide us into greater accuracy as we grow in Christ. Help us to put aside childish things and learn to truly walk as You walk, emulating You in our words, our deeds, our thoughts, and our desires.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.

1 Corinthians 13:11

In short, help us, Lord, to grow up to be men and women of the Book; a people who are more than conquerors through Christ who loved us and hold fast to Your unerring and eternal Truth.

It is for freedom that our Lord Yeshua Messiah has set us free; let us move in this dark world as freed children of the Light, no longer submitting ourselves to sin’s slavery. May this be done in us so that Your name is honored, amen.

For you are all children of light, children of the day. We are not of the night or of the darkness … But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and for a helmet the hope of salvation.

1 Thessalonians 5:5, 8