As I have been participating in our current Bible studies on the Psalms, I have again been struck by how many of them are what could only be classified as prayers of thanksgiving. What is even more amazing is that many of these Psalms were written and used in worship in tough times for the people of Israel—times when we would least expect a spirit of thanksgiving from that community. And so a big part of our class discussions have centered on the ability of those people to hang on to their willingness to give thanks to God even in the midst of dire circumstances (and how it can be difficult for us to follow their example).
Perhaps a clue to all of this is found in the fact that the verb “to thank” in ancient Hebrew is an action verb that means far more than just being grateful. The word actually implies an active commitment to the one who has supplied for our needs and/or brought us out of our own dire situations. It is this kind of thankfulness that Paul speaks to much later when he reminds us that we are to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
On the two Sundays leading up to Thanksgiving Day, we will spend some time in worship talking about the necessity for each of us to be thankful in all circumstances and in all of our prayers. On the topic of thanksgiving prayers, I will refer to Anne Lamott’s practical and even humorous little book on prayer entitled Thanks, Help, Wow in which she recognizes that while these three kinds of prayers are necessary parts of our prayer life, the “thanks” prayers should always come first!
So in anticipation of this worship mini-series we are entitling “Thanks-Living”, I would urge us all to spend a little more time in giving thanks to our Creator God, not just in our prayers, but also in re-committing ourselves to the One who makes all things possible, who always brings us up out of our own desperate situations. It is also my hope that these services will be real thanksgiving celebrations that will sustain and empower us to be truly thankful to our loving God well beyond Thanksgiving Day!
In a spirit of thanksgiving,