By Grace Johnson
‘Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,And into His courts with praise’. Psalm 100:4
Psalm 100 describes a picture of the worshipper entering the gates of the temple with thanksgiving and the courts with praise. This is surely our first responsibility as a lover of God and is a great way to enter into a prayer time.
Mark Stibbe in his book ‘Drawing near to God’ describes gratitude as ‘the true response to God’s enduring goodness.’ He explains that Bible characters David and his son Solomon would often burst into enthusiastic thanksgiving, known as a Berakah, a prayer which begins with the words ‘Blessed be God. An example is found in 1 Kings 8:15 Solomon cries ‘Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, who with his own hand has fulfilled what he promised with his own mouth to my father David’. The psalms are broken into books and each book concludes with a berakah to the Lord.
The Old Testament emphasis on gratitude left its mark on Jewish prayer. Jesus’ own prayers to the father are sometimes expressed in the form of a berakah. For example when Jesus gave thanks for the bread and fish with which he fed 5,000. Note he thanked God before he saw the actual realisation of the miracle. Thanksgiving therefore can be about what the Lord has already done but also what we are trusting him for. We can thank him in advance as Jesus did.
Thanksgiving figures in the writing of Paul. In Col 3:17 ‘Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the father through Him’. Again in Philippians Paul says ‘Don’t be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving present your requests to God’. The Passion version says ‘Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing, be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith filled requests to God, overflowing with gratitude
‘But Paul’ you might cry, ‘Don’t you realise there is so much to worry about!’ Paul knew inordinate levels of pressure too, yet he was able to rejoice as he fellowshipped with his heavenly father.
Gratitude immediately shifts the focus of our minds from the earthly to the heavenly. I am reminded of a preacher who said ‘Do you want to be like hens pecking around on the ground or like an eagle flying high above the situation’?
I learned from a resident in the Drug and alcohol ministry where I worked about the importance of gratitude. One of the girls who had extensive experience of AA and NA introduced the idea of a gratitude list. We had to find a number of things to thank God for each day. I found it an amazing way to shift the atmosphere from negative to positive during our ‘early’ morning devotional times together.
Activation: Begin your time with God today by finding 10 things you can thank Him for.