“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”
-Philippians 4:6 NIV
For we Americans November is the month of Thanksgiving (our Canadian neighbors celebrate it in October). Other nations do not celebrate it at all or at various other times and through other means. (We need to enlarge our world view – not everyone does everything the way we do! And, for that I am thankful!)
Some families have the tradition of sharing around the table on Thanksgiving what they are thankful for. This is appropriate and as we look at the healing of the lepers we often ask “why did only one came back and gave thanks to Jesus for the healing?” We are taught, or should be, to say please and thank you. Some families even teach about sending “thank you” notes for gifts, etc. We recognize the need to say thank you to one another and occasionally to our God.
Paul as he writes to the Church in Philippi teaches us to pray in all things and with our prayers should come a note of thanksgiving. It is in thanksgiving that our requests are made known to God. We thank God for answered prayers and our daily bread and then seek God's directions for the days ahead. We seek to become a people of “thanks” giving.
What happens then when we are not thankful? Paul says to be thankful in all things and yet there are some things that we are not thankful for. Who is thankful for bad news from the doctor, a car accident, the loss of a loved one, the loss of a job? We find God in the good but do we find God in the bad days of life? Are we thankful for the floods, earthquakes, etc.? Are we thankful when our prayers are not answered?
I have been reflecting on this in recent days. I am reading a devotional guide by Max Lucado and he shares a story of his two-year old daughter being found face down in a swimming pool and rescued in time. The next morning he was thanking/praising God and in doing so raised the question, "Would he have been able to be thankful if the outcome had not been a good one?" He doesn't answer. He just asks the question. And I appreciate that – we never know until we are confronted with such tragedy how we will respond. We all know how we think we will, how we think we should but none of us can say for sure.|
As we approach Thanksgiving 2007 do we thank God for the refiner's fire? For those situations that have forced us to grow in faith? For those moments when God seems so far away? For those moments when we feel alone, abandoned and lost? Do we pray with a sense of helpless hopelessness seeking the ability to be thankful?
Paul did not reach this point overnight. His too was a journey of faith through dark valleys, ship wrecks, beatings, being left for dead. He knew what is was like to be lonely, hungry, and abandoned by those who were close to him. Now he lives under Roman arrest, the next footsteps could be the guards coming to take him to the executioner. Yet, he writes “with thanksgiving” live your lives before God. He too has known the up and downs of life. He too has known dark hours in the night. And yet, he lifts our spirits as he calls us to keep our communication with God open “with thanksgiving.”
As we gather this Thanksgiving may God increase our faith so that we too may pray with the “thanksgiving” for God's presence in our lives.