Theme: Imitating Jesus in Our Prayers
During this Thanksgiving week, we learn how to render thanks to the Lord through the prayers of thanksgiving from Jesus himself.
Scripture: Matthew 14:19
In so small a matter of thanking God for his food, Jesus becomes an example to us. What is it that we can learn from his behavior? As we saw yesterday, we should give thanks for even the smallest things. Today we examine three more points.
2. We should give thanks at all times. The second lesson we have from Jesus’ example is that we should give thanks at all times, since Jesus certainly did himself. We have already seen how he gave thanks on every occasion in which we are told he presided at a meal. But he gave thanks at other times too. For example, at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, when he was about to raise him from the dead, he stopped to pray, saying, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me” (John 11:41b, 42).
As far as we are concerned, we tend to give thanks on special occasions, if at all. Like Thanksgiving Day. But actually our whole lives should be a perpetual thanksgiving. Many well-known New Testament texts stress this.
Philippians 4:6, 7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Colossians 2:6, 7: “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness.”
Colossians 3:15: “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.”
Hebrews 12:28: “Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe.”
Some Christians begin the day with thanksgiving, expressing gratitude that God has given them a good night’s rest and brought them to a new day of labor for him. They thank him for the food that is served at breakfast and for the one who serves it. Throughout the day they thank God for those they work with and for the help he gives at each step of the way. They thank him for the talents they can use for him, for every opportunity to speak a kind or helpful word to others, and for the help and encouragement others give to them. Then when they lie down at night, they go to sleep thanking God that he has been with them and blessed them one more day, and they commit their lives and those of their loved ones to him. Don’t you think Christ did that? Of course, he did! Shouldn’t you do it too?
3. We should give thanks in all circumstances. My third point is taken from Jesus’ giving thanks before instituting what we call the Lord’s Supper: We should give thanks in all circumstances. That is an obvious point in this case, for the elements of the Lord’s Supper stood for Christ’s broken body and shed blood. As he broke the bread and distributed the wine, he knew that he was soon to die and he knew how he was to die. Yet Jesus was just as ready to thank God in that situation as he was in the less dangerous, happier times that occurred earlier in his life.
Are you able to thank God in all circumstances? This is harder than thanking him when things go well, though when things go well we often forget to thank God at all. But it is not impossible. In yesterday’s study I mentioned Brother Lawrence. This humble man wrote on another occasion, “God… requires no great matters of us: a little remembrance of him from time to time; a little adoration; sometimes to pray for his grace, sometimes to offer him your sufferings, and sometimes to return him thanks for the favors he has given you, and still gives you, in the midst of your troubles, and to console yourself with him the oftenest you can…. You need not cry very loud; he is nearer to us than we are aware of.”1
The Apostle Paul knew how to thank God even in the midst of his terrible sufferings for the gospel’s sake, and he gave us this teaching: “Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16-18).
1Brother Lawrence, The Practice of the Presence of God (Old Tappan, NJ: Revell/Spire, 1958), p. 48.
How often did Jesus give thanks? How can we imitate that attitude?
Why did Jesus give thanks at the tomb of Lazarus?
What is the significance of Jesus giving thanks before the Last Supper?
Reflection: Do you live your day as the prototype Christian Dr. Boice describes? Examine your current circumstances. Even if they are difficult, begin to thank God now. Do you know someone like Brother Lawrence? Thank God for his/her example.
Application: Write out the four passages of thanks on index cards. Place the passages where you can see them throughout the day. Memorize one of them.