The duty of thanksgiving.
Grace and peace to you Beloved in the name of Jesus Christ. I thank God so much for His goodness to us in Christ Jesus. And I thank you so much for joining with us in these studies. May we all be increasingly conformed into Christ’s holy image. Let’s ask for God’s blessings on our study today. Pray.
Today in our final study on prayer we are looking at thanksgiving to God as a form of prayer. Specifically praise of God is for who He is and thanks of God is for what He has does. For my purpose I will combine both ideas.
Though our God is a spotless God He is more interested with our inward heart than the precision of our outward form. Having a heart for God means we have saving faith in Jesus. We have a new heart in Christ. And from that new heart flows our new words – praises and thanks.
King David under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit prayed this prayer.
2 Samuel 22: 47. The LORD lives, and blessed be my rock; And exalted be God, the rock of my salvation, 48 The God who executes vengeance for me, And brings down peoples under me, 49 Who also brings me out from my enemies; You even lift me above those who rise up against me; You rescue me from the violent man. 50 “Therefore I will give thanks to You, O LORD, among the nations, And I will sing praises to Your name. 51 “He is a tower of deliverance to His king, And shows lovingkindness to His anointed, To David and his descendants forever.”
Beloved, this was written for our instruction. (Exod.24:12, Rom.15:4, I Cor.10:11) God wants us to be thankful to Him for all that He is to us.
Inspired by the same Spirit of God, the apostle Paul writing to his brothers in sisters in Christ wrote this,
I Thessalonians 5:16. Rejoice always; 17 pray without ceasing; 18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
God’s love for us shed abroad in our soul pours forth love back to God. Our graced-heart overflows with thanks to the One in whom we live and move and have our being. (Rom.5:5, Acts 17:28)
Before we move on, though thanksgiving is our immense privilege and joy, I do want to stress that thanking God in prayer is our divinely required duty. Prayer is a mandatory duty. Thanking God in prayer is a duty.
Let me give us a brief definition of duty. Duty is conduct due, a moral obligation, respect or reverence required by a superior to an inferior. Do you see that in our context God requires the inward heart of love and reverence and then the outward expression of gratitude upon our lips.
Duty is not a concept spoken of too much in the modern church. We tend to think that grace nullifies duty. That those two concepts are mutually exclusive. Moreover, we tend to think that if thanksgiving is mandated that this would rob our thanks of free-affections or heart-warmth and thus make our prayers a formal sham.
But this can’t be true. We know the greatest commandments are to love God and to love man. God commands our affections as well as our actions. (Mt.22:35-40, Rom.13:8-10, Gal.5:14, Jas.2:8, I Cor.13:1-13)
Christ has performed all the requirements of the law of God for us. His merit is graced to us. So we do not obey to merit. But we do obey to please. We do obey as an expression of our gratitude for what He has done. The gospel of grace enables us to love the word of God as our rule. (WCF 19.6, WLC 94-97)
We love Him. We love Him because He loves us. (I Jn.4:10-19) And now His commandments are not burdensome to us. (I Jn.5:3, Jn.14:15, Lk.6:46) Think of it this way, those with faith in Christ are required to be faithful to Christ. Those who are under the yoke of Christ are required to follow Christ. (Mt.10:38-42, 11:25-30, 13:18-23, Mt.7:13-29)
And this includes praying as Christ commands us to pray. And praying like Christ prayed.
I thank You Father. (Jn.11:41, Mk.8:6, Acts 27:35)
In contrast to this (to warn us) listen to what the Holy Spirit says through Samuel to king Saul that refused to do his duty.
I Samuel 15:22. Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams. 23 “For rebellion is as the sin of divination, And insubordination is as iniquity and idolatry. Because you have rejected the word of the LORD, He has also rejected you from being king.”
The definition of thanksgiving.
Next, let’s consider the definition of giving thanks. In Hebrew the word for thank is yadah. We looked at this word last week in our study on confession of sin. Yadah is sometimes translated to confess. It means to cast up, to cast up to the Lord. The context tells us what is being brought up to the Lord. In confession we are bringing our sins to Him asking for forgiveness. In thanksgiving we are bringing our praises and thanks up to Him in adoration and joy for all that He is and for all that He has done.
The idea of casting ‘up’ implies that God is high, that God is up, that God is in heaven the place of His holy habitation and that we are on earth at His footstool. (Isa.66:1, Mt.5:35, Acts 7:49)
Psalm 99:5. Exalt the LORD our God And worship at His footstool; Holy is He…9 Exalt the LORD our God And worship at His holy hill, For holy is the LORD our God. (Ps.132:7)
The Greek word to give thanks is eucharisto. Obviously we get our English word eucharist from this word. This is a compound word, eu means good in Greek and charis means grace or gift.
Matthew 26: 26. While they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 27 And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you; 28 for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.
Christ is worshiping God. Christ our High Priest is showing us acceptable worship of God. Christ thanks God for a body that He might die for the sins of His people. So that we could worship God in holiness. Thank God for Christ. And thank God for every blessing we have in Christ, which is every blessing. (Heb.10:1-22, I Cor.1:20, Rom.8:28-32, I Cor.3:21-23)
Right away we learn that thanking God in prayer is part of our worship of God.
The writer to the Hebrews puts thanksgiving prayer as an aspect of our worship of God.
Hebrews 13:13. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. 14 For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. 15 Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. 16 And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.
I think it is easy to think of worship as being only something we do at corporate worship on the Lord’s Day.
But the Bible tells us to continually worship God. To pray constantly. To thank Him constantly, as a vital part of our devotion and adoration OF Him. This is part of presenting ourselves as a living sacrifice to God as Paul says in Romans. (Rom.12:1)
We are called to glorify God and to enjoy God, daily, moment by moment. To worship Him with joy and with thanksgiving. (Ps.42:4, Isa.51:3)
Paul tells the Philippians Christians to rejoice in the Lord always. This is worship or adoration of God. And a part of that “rejoicing” is thanking God.
Philippians 4:4. Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
And I will say, when you are more thankful to God then you are more happy with God. And we are more happy with God’s government over our life. Thanksgiving breeds happiness. Just like ingratitude breeds anger and depression and grumbling.
All of our life is “worship” a service of love to Christ. All of our life is a thank-offering unto the Lord. We pour out our body and soul as a love offering to the Lord as Paul says. (Phil.2:17, 2 Tim.4:6, Jer.33:11, Amos 4:5)
Philippians 1:20. according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Psalm 116:1. I love the LORD, because He hears My voice and my supplications. 2 Because He has inclined His ear to me, Therefore I shall call upon Him as long as I live.
People give us good things and do good things for us all the time, and perhaps we do not thank them for. And sometimes we are not thankful to them, because we do not love them. We make “like” the gift, but we do not like the giver. This ought never be the case with any Christian, as God calls us to love Him and to love all people.
One man puts it this way, Self love will put us upon prayer (petitions). But the love of God will put us upon praise and thanksgiving. Those that seek themselves will cry to God in their distress. Those that love God cannot endure that He should be without His due honor. (Thomas Manton, 1620-1677)
This is how our confession has it.
WCF 21.3 Prayer, with thanksgiving, being one special part of religious worship,(1) is by God required of all men;(2) and, that it may be accepted, it is to be made in the name of the Son,(3) by the help of His Spirit,(4) according to His will,(5) with understanding, reverence, humility, fervency, faith, love, and perseverance;(6) and, if vocal, in a known tongue.(7)
(1) Phil. 4:6. (2) Ps. 65:2. (3) John 14:13,14; 1 Pet. 2:5. (4) Rom. 8:26. (5) 1 John 5:14.
(6) Ps. 47:7; Eccl. 5:1,2; Heb. 12:28; Gen. 18:27; James 5:16; James 1:6,7; Mark 11:24; Matt. 6:12,14,15; Col. 4:2; Eph. 6:18. (7) 1 Cor. 14:14.
The reasons for thanksgiving.
Now let’s spend the rest of our time talking about reasons we have for thanking God. We have already mentioned a number of them.
Before we descend down to some particulars let me give you three general heads for our thanksgiving.
We thank God for His material temporal mercies. We thank God for His spiritual and eternal mercies. And as I mentioned at the beginning we thank or praise God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit for His manifold perfections. I am not going to follow this pattern here. I will combine them altogether.
All of this requires that we live with a conscious awareness of God in our life, in our day to day life. We are to live thinking of God. We are to live reading God’s book of providence in our life. We are to live reading God’s book of Scripture for our life. All of this is fuel for our thanksgiving. Coram Deo (before the face of God).
We thank God for His gracious sovereignty.
We thank God for everything we have because everything we have comes from God. And everything we have comes from God because everything belongs to God.
Job 38:41. (God asked Job) Who prepares for the raven its nourishment When its young cry to God And wander about without food?
Psalm 50:10. For every beast of the forest is Mine, The cattle on a thousand hills. 11 “I know every bird of the mountains, And everything that moves in the field is Mine.
God created all things. He created them for Himself. And He dispenses them to whom He wishes and for the purposes He determines. When we say “thank you God” we are acknowledging that God is and that God is sovereign. And that God is gracious. And all that we are and all that we have is according to God’s grace. Meaning according to God’s free unmerited (on our part) gift.
At the same time, by this we are expressing that we are his dependent children. And that we are utterly dependent upon Him for absolutely everything. We do not have one thing, but that it was given to us by God.
Look at the Scripture describes this.
I Corinthians 4:6. Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn not to exceed what is written, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other. 7 For who regards you as superior? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?
James 1:17. Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. 18 In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures. (I Chron.29:14, Phil.2:13)
We thank God for His mercies.
Every day we live His mercies to us are new and many. Mercies on our body. Our daily food. Our daily health. For us. For others. (I Tim.2:1) Mercies on our soul. Faith in Christ. Graced repentance from sin. Abiding comfort of the Holy Spirit. Spirit preservation unto eternity. For us. For our loved ones in Christ. Remember to be specific. And to be personal. Remember who you are praying to.
Listen to God’s word.
Psalm 119:156. Great are Your mercies, O LORD; Revive me according to Your ordinances.
Psalm 68:19. Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, The God who is our salvation. Selah. 20 God is to us a God of deliverances; And to GOD the Lord belong escapes from death.
Lamentation 3:21. This I recall to my mind, Therefore I have hope. 22 The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail. 23 They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. 24 “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” 25 The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, To the person who seeks Him. 26 It is good that he waits silently For the salvation of the LORD. (Ps.111:4)
Let’s talk about some of the specific mercies we enjoy in Jesus as fodder for our thanksgiving.
The preeminent thing we have to thank God for is not a thing; it is Christ, salvation in Christ.
Romans 8:28. And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?
2 Corinthians 9:15. Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!
Psalm 66:16. Come and hear, all who fear God, And I will tell of what He has done for my soul. 17 I cried to Him with my mouth, And He was extolled with my tongue.
WSC 32 What benefits do they that are effectually called partake of in this life? They that are effectually called do in this life partake of justification,(1) adoption,(2) and sanctification, and the several benefits which in this life do either accompany or flow from them.(3) (1) Rom. 8:30 (2) Eph. 1:5 (3) 1 Cor. 1:26,30
WSC 36 What are the benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification? The benefits which in this life do accompany or flow from justification, adoption, and sanctification, are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience,(1) joy in the Holy Ghost,(2) increase of grace,(3) and perseverance therein to the end.(4) (1) Rom. 5:1,2,5 (2) Rom. 14:17 (3) Prov. 4:18 (4) 1 John 5:13; 1 Pet. 1:5
The helps unto thanksgiving.
Let’s conclude our time by looking at a few helps to make us more thankful in heart and thus more thankful in our prayers.
Stay away from grumblers they will lead you into thanklessness. Get around people that thank God. Labor to reconcile ourselves to God’s providence.
Guard your heart. Watch over the temper of your heart. Watch out for a grumbling spirit of being discontent. Don’t focus on the pain of two or three of your crosses or afflictions and forget thousands of incomparable benefits you enjoy in Jesus.
Also, remember that our crosses are sent to us by God. And therefore they are for our good. I would argue good physically and spiritually. John Newton says that he would have been ruined without his crosses. How many sins has God prevented us from engaging in because of a sickness? See how to look at it from the goodness of God. Remember God’s purpose is to shape you into the holy image of Christ. Labor to reconcile ourselves to God’s providence. And to labor to look for the good in all circumstances.
Always give thanks to God, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, in love. (2 Cor.9:2)
We are speaking about prayer, so we feel better when we SAY to God, God thank you, our hearts are lifted up. (Ps.113:6, Ps.139:17, Gen.32:10, 2 Sam.7:18) Say your thanks to God out loud, and often. Hearing your own thanksgivings to God makes you more thankful to God. 😊
- How do you know that it is your duty to pray to God and to thank God in your prayers? What is a duty? How do you reconcile the grace of God in Christ and doing your duty unto God in Christ? Think faith and faithfulness. Does God govern our affections and our actions? (2 Tim.3:14-17, Jn.3:16, I Tim.2:1-5, 2 Sam.22:47-51, Exod.24:12, Rom.15:4, I Cor.10:11, I Thess.5:16-18, (Mt.22:35-40, Rom.13:8-10, Gal.5:14, Jas.2:8, I Cor.13:1-13)
- Did Christ thank God in prayer? In what circumstances? For what reasons? What lessons do we learn from this? (Jn.11:41, Mk.8:6, Acts 27:35)
- Give the definition of thanksgiving. What is the main Hebrew word for thanksgiving? What do we learn by this? What is the main Greek word for thanksgiving? What do we learn by this? In what way is thanksgiving part of our worship? (Isa.66:1, Mt.5:35, Acts 7:49, Ps.99:5, Ps.132:7, Mt.26:26-28, Heb.10:1-22, I Cor.1:20, Rom.8:28-32, I Cor.3:21-23, Heb.13:13-16, Rom.12:1)
- How is thanksgiving to God an expression of your joy in God or your enjoyment of God and of your love to God. Explain. Interact with the idea of joyless thanks to God. (Ps.42:4, Isa.51:3, Phil.4:4-7, Phil.2:17, 2 Tim.4:6, Jer.33:11, Amos 4:5, Phil.1:20-21, Ps.116:1-2)
- Interact with this quote from Thomas Watson (1620-1677). Self-love will put us upon prayer (petitions). But the love of God will put us upon praise and thanksgiving. Those that seek themselves will cry to God in their distress. Those that love God cannot endure that He should be without His due honor (in thanksgiving).
- Why should we thank-praise God for who He is? Give reasons from the Godhead for your praise-thanks of Him. (Deut. 6:4, 1 Cor. 8:4-6, 1 Thess. 1:9, Jer. 10:10, Job 11:7-9, Job 26:14, Jn.4:24, 1 Tim. 1:17, Deut. 4:15-16, Jn. 4:24, Lk.24:39, Acts 14:11-15, James 1:17, Mal. 3:6, 1 Kings 8:27, Jer. 23:23-24, Ps. 90:2, 1 Tim. 1:17, Eph.1:11, Isa.6:1-6, Jn.3:16, I John 4:1-10)
- Why should we thank God for His sovereignty? For His grace? For ourselves? And for others? (Job 38:41, Ps.50:10-11, I Cor.4:6-7, James 1:17-18, I Chron.29:14, Phil.2:13)
- What are some material and temporal blessings for which you thank God? For yourself? For others?
- What are some spiritual and eternal blessings for which you thank God? For yourself? For others? (Rom.8:28-32, 2 Cor.9:15, Ps.66:16-17, Jn.3:16, Rom.5:1-10, Rom. 8:30, Eph. 1:5, 1 Cor. 1:26-30, Rom. 14:17, Prov. 4:18, 1 John 5:13, 1 Pet. 1:5)
- What are some practical things you can do to make yourself more thankful? More thankful in your prayers? Less unthankful?