During my prayer time last night, the subject of thanksgiving entered my mind because, well, it is Thanksgiving! Philippians 4:6 came to my mind: “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (KJV).
There are many verses that I have read in the Bible. Some have been
impressed in my mind. Some, not so much! I first came to appreciate
this verse when I read John MacArthur’s book, Anxiety Attacked,
back when I was in high school. I read that book a couple of times. I
read it once, then I reread it during the final exam period, a time
when I was particularly anxious. John MacArthur had a chapter in that
book about Philippians 4:6.
But the years passed, and I have not thought about that verse that
often since then—-maybe sporadically. But I thought about it last
night. And what I thought was this: I spend a lot of my prayer time
making requests to God. That is not all that I do, of course, for I
read something devotional: the Bible, the pseudepigrapha, and currently
the “Conflict of Adam and Eve with Satan.” But requests are a
significant part of my prayer time. I pray for others first, one reason
being that I care for the people I pray for and want to see good in
their lives, and another reason being that I want to cultivate
compassion within myself. Then I pray for my own needs and desires:
help me to get paying employment so that eventually I can pay off my
student loans, help my blog to do better, help me to have more peace in
social situations, fill me with your Holy Spirit, help me to make
progress on my dissertation, help me to move on from past hurts.
I make these requests, and I do not think that is a bad thing. This
is a broken world, after all. I am broken. Others are broken, looking
for a breakthrough, or at least peace. Life is broken. I would be
wrong to refrain from praying for things, for that would imply that
everything is all right. It’s not.
But, unfortunately, I rarely make these requests with thanksgiving.
It’s not that I never give thanks. It’s just pretty sporadic. I thank
God for the good that happens in the lives of others: when someone fears
that she has cancer and learns that she does not, I give God thanks.
Yes, bad things happen to people in this life, but it is good to be
happy about the good things that happen in people’s lives. I also thank
God for some of the joys or conveniences that I experience: that movie,
TV show, or book that really moved me or made me think; that resource
that I found for my dissertation (and, believe me, resources are not
always easy to find!).
But I think that I should make thanksgiving a regular part of my
daily prayer time. But I want to do this without being perfunctory. I
don’t like having a long list of obligatory things that I have to say
when I am praying. I get to the point where I am not feeling what I am
praying. Currently, I have my standard list of people I pray for each
day, and I keep that pretty standard: I rarely add to it. But there is
also a part of my prayer time in which I pray for people who are not
part of my standard list—-people who come to mind at that moment. That
can vary by the day. I find this approach more authentic than feeling
as if I have to pray through the phone book.
I can do something similar with thanksgiving. I can set aside a part
of my prayer time in which I mention something that I am thankful for.
I don’t have to go through a laundry list, but I can mention something,
and maybe more than one thing. It can pertain to myself, or to
something good that is happening in the life of someone else. There is a
lot to be thankful for: people who have helped me, our cats, and the
list goes on.
I spend a lot of time complaining and griping about life. That
probably won’t change. I believe that I have things to complain about!
I might as well not pretend otherwise, though I generally will try not
to burden my readers with that (which is not a promise, but just a
policy I may follow). But I should spend more time than I do being
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