Thanksgiving should be a regular part of the believer’s life. It isn’t something for a holiday alone. The Bible says, “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). The problem with such praise is that we often don’t know what to say. I’ve found that if I think in categories, the giving of thanks comes much easier. Praise flows and a renewed perspective grows. By counting my blessings, I realize that God has been so good. Don’t you want to do God’s will? Don’t you want to experience the joy that comes from giving thanks? Consider three categories of thanksgiving.
We have much to be thankful for when it comes to spiritual things. The Bible says the Lord “has given us everything required for life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3). When I pray, I often spend time thanking God for such benefits. I thank Him for His mercy, love, and forgiveness. When I think about His patience towards me, despite my selfishness and stubbornness, I give praise for His continued long-suffering. I think back to my pre-conversion lifestyle, and I’m drawn to give thanks for the way He pursued and saved me. I express gratitude for how He has grown me, sustained me, and led me. I thank Him for giving me a Bible, a church, the Holy Spirit, and the privilege of prayer. I give praise for victory over sin, and for the opportunity to use my spiritual gifts in the body of Christ. I return thanks for the privilege of sharing the gospel with others. Indeed, there is an innumerable number of spiritual benefits associated with the Christian life. We should never be short of content when it comes to prayers of gratitude.
I also like to spend time giving thanks for relationships in my life. I believe Paul set a precedent for such praying. In Philippians 1:3-4, he shared his personal prayer for the believers at Philippi: “I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer.” Most of us could create a unending litany of praise in this regard. All have relationships for which they should be grateful. What about you? For whom should you be thankful? I like to first thank God for my wife. I express gratitude for several qualities which she possesses. I then move on to words of appreciation for my children, my extended family members, my closest friends, fellow believers, and other pastors and ministers. I’ve found that such praying does a lot to make me more positive. It melds my mind and makes me see the best in others. It cultivates a spirit of grace and gratitude within my heart. It guards me from seeing people as objects, and it helps me to see them as heaven-sent helpers.
Lastly, I think it is important to thank God for His material provision. I believe Jesus taught us to do this when He instructed us to pray: “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). Our Lord indicated that our basic necessities are met by our Heavenly Father’s care (Matthew 6:25-33). For this reason, we should spend time thanking Him for our food, clothes, homes, cars, and health. I try to model this type of praying during my family’s prayer times. I believe it is a great way to develop contentment.
Dr. Patrick Latham