Is it possible to maintain an active attitude of thanksgiving? Do we begin most of our prayers by thanking the Lord first? Is this a regular practice in our prayer lives?
Frequently, I catch myself starting my prayer time with a flurry of petitions. (Sometimes the list is long, so I dive right into it.) At such times, my conscience works on me, and I hear a familiar “Voice” reminding me: “Don’t forget thanksgiving!”
A Painful Season
The need to give thanks took on new meaning for me during a very painful season. Over twenty years ago, I made a huge career change, stepping into the role of a financial advisor. After studying for months and then passing a grueling test called the Series 7 Exam, I was licensed as a stockbroker on June 1, 2000. From that point, I began the process of trying to build what is commonly referred to as “a book of business.”
Unfortunately, my timing for this career change was not the best. (My friends in the financial world would sidle up to me and say, “You know, Leggatt, you chose the worst possible time to get into this business!”) With such “encouragement” ringing in my ears, I discovered the unfortunate truth of their critique. Building a list of clients in a significantly depressed market was a much more daunting task than I had ever expected.
Up to that point in my life, I had rarely struggled with anxiety or depression. Now, those two maladies flooded into my life and caused a recurring pattern. I began waking up in the wee hours of the morning—covered in cold sweat, totally gripped by anxiety.
A Desperate Declaration
Those 2:00 a.m. anxiety attacks were torture sessions, filled with foreboding questions. “How will we put food on the table? How long can our dwindling savings account last? How will we pay our bills if I can’t get a stream of income going?”
Fortunately, I was enough of a student of the Bible to know about one of the most specific and helpful passages regarding anxiety: Philippians 4:6 & 7. When the attacks would come, I would begin proclaiming out loud: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” I don’t know how Cindi slept through it, but I would continue this proclamation—over and over again—until I was tired enough to go back to sleep.
After about four or five months using this method to deal with the nightly anxiety attacks, I made a shocking discovery: I had forgotten all about thanksgiving!
Two Missing Words
Eventually, I actually checked the Philippians 4 reference in my Bible. When I did, I found that I had inadvertently deleted two very important words from my memorized proclamation: “with thanksgiving.” Verse 6 correctly says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Those two missing words were to become bedrock truths for me.
At first, however, I thought, “Why should I include thanksgiving? How does that help? And what do I have to be thankful for anyhow? I’m in agony!” The Lord began to teach me to declare my trust in Him—my confidence that He was far bigger than any anxiety-producing situation. He patiently persuaded me not to forget thanksgiving.
Our Need to Give Thanks
One of Derek Prince’s most powerful and popular radio series is simply called, “Thanksgiving.” In this week-long radio series of 15-minute daily messages, Derek provides comprehensive and compelling instruction on this topic. He covers the various mandates and blessings attached to the principle of thanksgiving.
Citing 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, Derek talks about three simple instructions from the Word, including a command about thanksgiving, that enable us to fulfill God’s will.
There are three simple instructions: rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks. Concerning giving thanks in everything, Paul says, “This is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” When we are not giving thanks, we are not fulfilling the will of God. We are out of the will of God. How important it is to understand that!
I have dealt at various times with so many Christians—including ministers, missionaries, and others—who somehow felt they weren’t in the will of God. Somehow, they weren’t in the right ministry, or the right prayer group, or the right church. Something was wrong. When I analyzed their situation and went into it with them, nothing was wrong in the externals. It wasn’t the wrong ministry, or the wrong prayer group, or the wrong church. But here was the problem: they weren’t giving thanks.
Scripture makes it clear: when you are not giving thanks, you are not in the will of God. Everything else in your life may be in line with God’s will. But the fact that you are not giving thanks puts you out of the will of God.
Fighting Anxiety the Right Way
Are anxiety and thanklessness pushing you out of the stream of God’s purposes? When you and I are confronted with stressful situations in life, do we stay in God’s will by giving thanks? Do we include thanksgiving with our prayer and supplication?
If not, let’s remedy that situation together with the following declaration:
Dear Lord Jesus, I recognize that You are bigger and more powerful than any of the situations that are presently arrayed against me. Even though my troubles may loom large, threatening to bring a flood of anxiety into my life, I turn my eyes toward You. Not only will I refuse to be anxious, as Your Word says, but I will also give thanks to You, O Lord.
I thank You that You are able to rescue me from any situation, no matter how severe. I thank You that I have witnessed Your faithfulness over many years. Even though the enemy has tried to oppress me and take me out, You have kept my feet from slipping. You have set me upon a rock.
I thank You, Lord, that You are my hope, my strength, my song, my fortress, my refuge, my strong tower. I run to You at this time, thanking You for your help—thanking You in advance for the victory. Amen.
It Does Make Sense
Most of us are somewhat familiar with the term, “counter-intuitive.” That is the nature of the prayer we have just offered to the Lord. In the world’s eyes, it just doesn’t make any sense at all. Thanking the Lord in advance for something that is not yet on the horizon. But that is the nature of the Christian faith. We don’t forget thanksgiving!
Derek Prince was one of the most counter-intuitive people I ever met. In the face of overwhelming odds, he insisted upon thanking the Lord as a matter of discipline. This is our heritage as diligent disciples, and as faithful adherents to what Derek taught. It is one of the great privileges of being part of this ministry—a connection you and I share!
Please allow us to help you fan the flames of your thanksgiving fires. Why not strengthen this practice in your life by listening to the full radio series, “Thanksgiving,” from which we drew Derek’s quote? You can download it for free using the link below—just a tangible way for us to say, “Thank you!” for your wonderful prayers and contributions.
Let’s finish this letter together with a helpful word of encouragement, and then a solemn admonition. Both will keep us mindful of our need not to forget thanksgiving.
First, the encouraging word. It comes to us from Psalm 100:4, a very familiar passage: “Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise.” As we noted earlier in the letter, you and I need to make thanksgiving a priority in our lives. The word “enter” makes it clear it is our beginning point—where we ought to start.
Next, the admonition. It comes to us from Romans 1:21. In a preceding verse, the Apostle Paul warns the Romans that “The wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” (verse 18). Why is God’s wrath unleashed? Verse 21 gives part of the answer: “they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful.” In their disobedience, they ignored a basic obligation—the need to say, “Thank You!”
Whether by encouragement or by admonition, let’s make sure—in our relationship with Jesus—that we stay faithful to this essential mandate: Don’t forget thanksgiving!
All the best,
Thanksgiving—our logical response to God's goodness—allows us to enter His presence and unlock His power.
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