“Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 HCSB)
My three-year-old son’s bedtime routine is the same every night–take a bath, brush teeth, read a book and a Bible story, and pray. I usually say the prayer and let him add prayer requests and his own list of things he is thankful for. One night, at the end of our routine, Barrett surprised me when he said, “I want to pray!” What followed changed my perspective on a phrase in our key verse, “prayer and petition with thanksgiving.”
Thank you, God, for making Grandma better from being sick.
Thank you, God, for helping my cough get better.
Thank you, God, for a good day tomorrow.
Thank you, God, for Transformers for my birthday.
Thank you, God, for good dreams tonight.
Here’s the thing: most of the things he was thanking God for that night hadn’t happened yet. They were the things that worried him, the things that filled him with hope, and even the things he wanted in his life. He thanked God for what would be–the answers to his prayers.
I know he’s only three. I realize he doesn’t understand the proper way to pray, but I learned more about praying with thanksgiving from my son than I could glean from any book on the subject.
“Proper prayer” includes a time of adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and requests. It’s how Jesus taught us to pray using The Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. The disciples saw a distinct difference in the way the Pharisees (the religious leaders of the day) prayed and the way Jesus prayed. One was for show, the other seemed like an intimate conversation.
The dichotomy between religion and faith expanded when the disciples asked Jesus to identify the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus called a child over and said, “Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom” (Matthew 18:4 MSG). In other words, we have to trust God as a child trusts his or her father. Little children never doubt their parents can meet their needs. They expect that what they ask for they will receive.
What if we put aside our proper prayer structure and weave together our petitions and thanksgiving? What if, like a child, we truly believe our Father in heaven hears our prayers and will meet our needs?
Thank you, God, for providing the money we need for our bills.
Thank you, God, for sustaining me through this medical treatment.
Thank you, God, for directing me to the right job at the right time.
Thank you, God, for sending a friend to encourage me in my faith.
Thank you, God, for restoring my marriage.
The shift in our language causes a shift in our hearts. As we thank God in advance for what he can do, we find we believe he will do it. This isn’t a magic formula for answered prayers, but it is a powerful, faith-building way to pray. Tonight, kneel at your bedside and try praying with faith like a child.
Father in heaven, we believe you hear our prayers. We know you have all power and authority to answer our prayers. As we bring you our needs, our fears, and our hopes, we thank you in advance for hearing us and caring for us. When we see these prayers answered, we will be sure to thank you again for what you have done. Amen.
Scripture for Reflection
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever.” (Psalm 136:1-4 ESV)
“And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. Let your roots grow down into him, and let your lives be built on him. Then your faith will grow strong in the truth you were taught, and you will overflow with thankfulness.” (Colossians 2:6-7 NLT)
Reach for More
Make time today to weave thanksgiving into your prayers. We would love to join you! Visit The Glorious Table Community page on Facebook. Share your prayer needs and reasons to give thanks. We would love to pray and celebrate with you! Also, sharing the ways God answers your prayers encourages others in their faith. Consider sharing your own story of an answered prayer on social media using the hashtag #tgtreachformore.
Kelly Smith is a small town girl who married a small town man. They have three children. In the quiet minutes of her day, you will find her at the keyboard or curled up with a book–always with coffee. Kelly believes we are created for community and loves to find ways to connect with other women who are walking in the shadow of the cross. She blogs at mrsdisciple.com.
Photograph © Ilya Yakover, used with permission