Thanksgiving and Prayer

November 20, 2016    Philippians 4:4 – 13Thanksgiving and Prayer        

 

    A godly farmer was asked to dine with a well-known gentleman. While there, he asked a blessing at the table as he was accustomed to do at home.   His host said jeeringly, "That's old fashioned; it is not customary nowadays for well-educated people to pray before they eat."   The farmer responded that with him it was customary, but that some of those on his farm never prayed over their food. "Ah, then," said the gentleman, "They are sensible and enlightened.   Who are they?" "My pigs," the farmer answered.   Do you think that the pigs have their way of being thankful?  Are the birds thankful when it rains?    Do the planets, the stars and the galaxies make music to God? 

       One person wrote I am Thankful for......... ....the taxes I pay because it means I’m employed.    ....the clothes that fit a little too snug because it means I have enough to eat.  ....my shadow who watches me work because it means I am out in the sunshine.    ....a lawn that needs mowing, windows that need cleaning and gutters that need fixing because it means I have a home.    ....the spot I find at the far end of the parking lot because it means I am capable of walking.   ....my huge heating bill because it means I am warm.    ....all the complaining I hear about our government because it means we have freedom of speech.    ....the lady behind me in church who sings off key because it means that I can hear.    ....the piles of laundry and ironing because it means my loved ones are nearby.    ....the alarm that goes off in the early morning hours because it means that I’m alive.    ....the weariness and aching muscles at the end of the day because it means I have been productive.

    For me personally I am thankful for Sally my wife. I am thankful for my family.  I am thankful for this church because ministry is fulfilling and rewarding.     I am thankful for my salvation and for God’s grace.   I am thankful for God’s word and for prayer.    I am thankful for all of God’s gracious provision.     I am thankful for God’s help in ministry, preaching and for day by day needs.  What is the greatest blessing you had this year?   What are you thankful for?  Open Discussion

    Is God thankful?  Who would God be thankful to and for what?    Was Jesus thankful when he was on earth as man?   Jesus when he blessed the bread and fish and fed the multitudes would give thanks for the food.  We see that in John 6 and in Matthew 15 and other passages.  In John 11 where Jesus raised Lazarus Jesus said Father I thank you that you have heard me.  God hears our prayers.

     I think a very interesting example is in Luke 22 where Jesus is with the disciples at the last supper.  And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  It is like that Jesus is saying thank you Father for giving me.  Thank you God that I am going to die.  Thank you Father for this bread but that bread represented Jesus.  Jesus was the true bread that came down from heaven.  I think Jesus communicated that God is thankful when help one another.  We get a picture of that in Matthew 25 where Jesus said “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’   “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’   “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.  You could call that giving thanks.  Also the words well done you good and faithful servant

    It is important to be thankful and it is as dangerous thing not to give thanks to God.   An ungrateful heart is fertile ground for all kinds of sin.   Romans 1:21 for although they knew God they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to Him but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.   God is saying to us today that a lack of thanksgiving produces futile thinking and a darkened heart.   Romans 1 tells us that God gave them over to their sin.   They chose sin over God which is not a good choice. 

    I Corinthians 15:57 But thanks be to God!  He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.   II Corinthians 2:14 tells us where God is leading us.   But thanks be to God who always leads us triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him.   If you are following hard after God, God is leading you in victory.   I Thessalonians 5:18 tells us to give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.    Does that mean thank God for impossible situations yes?   Thank God even for my failures and sins yes.       Thank God for forgiveness and his power and his ability to move and change people and situations.   A mentally spiritual person is a thankful person.     

     When Paul went to Philippi he was beaten and thrown into jail.  As Paul and Silas were singing and praying in prison the Holy Spirit shook things up.  In fact everyone was set free.  The chains fell off and they can fall off when we worship.   When Paul wrote this letter he wrote it from jail.  But this letter is a letter of joy and victory.   And Paul writes in Phil 4:4 to Rejoice in the Lord always.   I will say it again rejoice.  .  Paul’s choice was to rejoice.  Thanksgiving is a choice.  We can choose to be thankful or not. To rejoice is a choice.    We can choose to rejoice or not.

    We are better and we are happier if we choose to rejoice.  It does not mean that everything is easy or simple.  That does not mean that we do not have battles and struggles.  It does not negate the struggles but it helps us in them.  We do have times of sorrow and grief just as Paul did and our Lord went before us.  Jesus path was not an easy one.  To rejoice is like a reset button.  We return to our source of real joy and that is found in Jesus. 

  This has been attributed to an unknown confederate soldier.  I asked God for strength that I might achieve.  I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.   I asked for health that I might do greater things.  I was given infirmity that I might do better things.  I asked for riches that I might be happy.   I was given poverty that I might be wise.   I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.   I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.  I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.  I was given life that I might enjoy all things.  I got nothing that I asked for – but everything I had hoped for.  Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.   I am among all men most richly blessed. 

    That sounds like Job to me.  Job did not get his questions answered but in his pain his life was filled when he had a little chat with God.  Things that he wanted answers to did not have to be answered.  God challenged him and filled him.  In verse 4:11 Paul writes I have learned to be content.   We go to the store and look at the nice new cell phone with all the new bells and whistles and we desire it.  We see the new car advertised on TV and we think I would love a new car I would not need to take it to the shop for new brakes or new battery or new tires.  I could drive it for a couple of years and not be concerned about it.  Jesse and Shellie had their van checked out for their PA trip and it cost 1K. 

    We need to be a thankful people.   Some doctors think they have found a way to improve your health.   This new treatment will lower your blood pressure, help you feel less hostile, help you to quit smoking, and even to lose weight.   You can lower your risk of depression, phobias, bulimia, and alcoholism.    Are you interested in a better life?   What is the miracle cure?  Giving thanks!    Several recent studies have pointed out the benefits of regular thanksgiving. Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California-Davis says that practicing gratitude is like exercising. “Use it, and you won’t lose it, even when times are tough.”    USA Today, November 24, 2008

       Professor Emmons also wrote  “those who offer gratitude are less envious and resentful.”They sleep longer, exercise more and report a drop in blood pressure.” Emmons is the author of the book, "Thanks! How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier" and an earlier book that describes gratitude as a “new science.” 

       Brenda Shoshanna is a New York psychologist who agrees. "You can't be depressed and grateful at the same time," said Shoshanna, the author of "365 Ways to Give Thanks: One for Every Day of the Year." ''It makes a person physically, mentally, in every way healthier.        

    Scripture tells us in this passage to pray.  Take all of your concerns to God in prayer.  The God of all creation has invited us to pray.   That is pretty neat.  What could be more exciting?   The lover of our soul says come to me – come into my presence.  What a great and mighty God.   Prayer can be hard work but it is more than that.  It is connecting with our creator. It is connecting with the source of our joy.   Lord teach me how to pray so that I connect with you because prayer is more than saying words it is connecting with your soul mate. 

     In Acts 12 King Herod sees that it pleased the Jews that James was killed with the sword so Herod has Peter thrown into prison.  Peter is guarded by 4 squads of soldiers of 4 men each.   He is guarded by 16 soldiers but the church is fervently praying for Peter.  Herod was going to bring him to trial after Passover.   It looks like Peter was in jail for a few days and the night before Peter’s trial an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared and shone in the jail.  The angel struck Peter on his side to wake him up.  That is a spiritual angel hitting Pieter physically by the way.  The angel tells Peter to get up the chains drop off his hands and they walk out of jail.   In the morning there was no small commotion because Peter was not to be found.    Herod ordered all of the guards to be killed.   Not a good night for guard duty.   Lord teach me to pray so that your miracles may be experienced.   God is still doing miracles today.   God had a plan for Peter.  Day by day the church prayed and a miracle happens.   It is neat to see God answer prayer.    

     God has told us to pray.   I Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to pray continuously.   Ephesians 6:18 and pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests, with this in mind be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.   I Timothy 2 I urge then first of all that requests, prayers intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone – for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness.   This is good and pleases God our savior who wants all men to be saved and to come to knowledge of the truth.

   Philippians 4:6 do not be anxious about anything but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God.   What is the result of praying about everything?   This passage says the peace of God will guard our hearts and our minds. I could stand a good dose of peace3 today.    Jesus said men should always pray and not faint.   Jesus in several places in the gospels invites us to pray.     Hebrews says to come boldly before God.   The God that we come before is a loving heavenly Father who wants us to trust him.   We have a lot to be thankful for.  The only true God answers prayer.  God hears every prayer.  God is good and every good and perfect gift is from God.