We celebrated Thanksgiving this past weekend with a great dinner shared with family and friends. It was a time to remember the many ways we’ve been blessed throughout the year and to focus on what is good in our lives. I’m glad we have a holiday that is dedicated to giving thanks. On the other hand, thankfulness is an attitude of the heart that I need to practice year round rather than just on one special weekend in October.
There have been times in my life when I have felt overwhelmed by problems, both my own and those of others. Many times my prayers seemed an exercise in futility. I’d rattle off my petitions to the Almighty with no real sense that they were actually going anywhere. I pictured them bouncing around the ceiling like the bubble that bounces endlessly around the television screen when the DVD player is in sleep mode. Either that or I imagined them accumulating like cobwebs in the corners up there until it would get so crowded that they’d begin to drift down to settle on the floor under my feet. I couldn’t understand why my prayer life was so lifeless when the needs all around me were so great.
I was forgetting something important. In Philippians 4:6 it says “Do not be anxious for anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, present your requests to God…” Thanksgiving was the missing ingredient. It was not only missing from my prayers but it was missing in my heart. I began to discover that a thankful spirit is something that needs cultivation. When I practice thanksgiving on a daily basis my perspective undergoes a transformation. Rather than focusing on problems, I find myself focusing on God, on His love and His faithfulness. My faith comes to life and the ceiling that once seemed like such an impermeable obstacle simply disappears leaving an open heaven above me.
The next verse goes on to say that if we present our requests with thanksgiving then the peace of God which is beyond understanding will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Prayer out of a thankful heart gets carried heavenward on wings of faith and the result is a peace like nothing this world can offer. It sounds like a good deal to me. I’d better pay attention to the words of an old chorus we used to sing in church years ago. It said to “Count your blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings, see what God has done.”