(Friends: during the next few weeks, as we approach the observance of thanksgiving in the United States, many (perhaps all) of the messages will address the theme of thanksgiving and gratitude. Thanks, Glen)
Part 2 - Prayer and Thanksgiving As Fruit
A friend recently read to me a chapter from a very well known book on prayer. The author convincingly and eloquently made the point that Christians of his day (the early 20th century) did not pray enough. Even more importantly, they did not pray well enough. I am sure this was true, as it is in our day. "Ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 2:2-3). The neglect doubtless involves every aspect of prayer, including our current consideration of thanksgiving. As my friend read, a question came to mind: "Why do Christians not pray enough? Why do we not pray well enough?"
We have all likely heard countless sermons regarding prayerlessness. The reasons suggested for such spiritual failure often involve neglect, carelessness, forgetfulness, and even laziness. All of these possibilities may apply to prayerlessness. However, careful analysis reveals that such weaknesses are actually the fruit of a much deeper problem. The issue involves Truth, namely, the personal truth of the Lord Jesus Christ - "I am… the Truth", and also the doctrinal Truth of Scripture - "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free" (John 14:6; 8:32). If we do not consistently and effectually pray, the disturbing fact of the matter is that we do not know our Lord or His Word well enough to motivate and empower our fellowship with God. "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:6).
An illustration may be helpful. Suppose that a wealthy benefactor opens a bank account in your name. He deposits ten million dollars in your account, and sends you a large supply of checks. He tells you that you may use the money as you desire, and that as the account balance grows smaller, he will deposit additional funds in the account to maintain the full balance. "Write checks as you will, for whatever you will" encourages the benefactor. "However," he adds, "there is one caveat." Uhoh, here it comes, we think to ourselves. "You must communicate with me daily" says the man. "I want your fellowship. So long as you remain in regular contact with me, the account I have opened will remain open and supplied."
I'm sure you see the point. Regardless of how neglectful, careless, forgetful, or even lazy we may be, we would almost surely maintain the prescribed communication. If we knew it was true that our benefactor possessed good character, honesty, and integrity, we would daily respond to his mandate for communication. However, if we didn't know the man well enough and were unsure of his character, we might well find ourselves neglectful, careless, forgetful, and lazy. Despite the truth of his virtue, we would likely fail to avail ourselves of his commitment and generosity.
Apply this to prayer of every form, including thanksgiving. Fellowship with God is fruit, the fruit of knowing, understanding, and believing that God is exactly who He declares Himself to be through His Word and by His Spirit. This involves "the unsearchable riches of Christ" promised to every believer (Ephesians 3:8). Regardless of how neglectful, careless, forgetful, or lazy we may be, if the Word of God and the Spirit of God convinces us of the faithfulness of God, we will pray. Moreover, we will pray well because our communication with God will be originated, motivated, and empowered by the Truth that makes us free to honor Him and do His will. "Thy lovingkindness is before mine eyes, and I have walked in Thy truth" (Psalm 26:3).
If we want to pray more and better, our path to fulfilling such desire does not primarily lie in deciding to pray more and better. We must rather seek to know God and His Word. Thereby knowledge, understanding, and belief will result in action, the action of communicating with God. Regarding thanksgiving, if we find ourselves deficient in a heart full of gratitude and the expression thereof, we can be sure that we do not know well enough the truth that our Father is the giver of "every good gift and every perfect gift" (James 1:17). We also do not adequately realize the cost of His provision, namely the suffering, forsakenness, and death of the Lord Jesus that purchased our salvation and all of its eternal blessedness. Let those truths sink ever more deeply into our hearts and minds. We will prayerfully give thanks, and we will pray more and better in every way because prayer is fruit, the fruit of God's truth as revealed in the Lord Jesus and in the Scriptures. The Psalmist confirms...
"O send out Thy light and Thy truth: let them lead me; let them bring me unto Thy holy hill, and to Thy tabernacles. Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise Thee, O God my God."
Weekly Memory Verse
And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks unto God and the Father by Him.
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