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Giving Thanks

“Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: in whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:12-14).

Paul’s prayer is a model or pattern for all believers to follow. Like his prayers here and elsewhere, our prayers should include praise as well as petitions. To the Philippians Paul wrote, “Be [anxious] for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Philippians 4:6). In 1 Timothy 2:1 he urged that “supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all.” Later he told the Colossians to “continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Colossians 4:2). Paul constantly gave thanks in his prayers (Acts 27:35; Romans 1:8; 1 Timothy 1:12).

Giving thanks is too often demoted to a secondary place in the prayers of Christ’s people. We are quick to make our requests and slow to thank God for His answers. Because God so often answers our prayers, we come to expect it. We forget that it is only by His grace that we receive anything from Him.

The Bible repeatedly stresses the importance of giving thanks. “Offer unto God thanksgiving” (Psalm 50:14). “It is a good thing to give thanks unto the Lord, and to sing praises unto Thy name, O most High” (Psalm 92:1). “Giving thanks always for all things” (Ephesians 5:20). “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God” (Colossians 3:17). “Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name” (Hebrews 13:15). Thanksgiving should permeate our speech, our songs, and our prayers.

Our Lord knew the importance of giving thanks. Before feeding the five thousand, Jesus “took the loaves; and when He had given thanks, He distributed to the disciples” (John 6:11). Just before raising Lazarus from the dead, “Jesus lifted up His eyes, and said, Father, I thank Thee that Thou hast heard Me” (John 11:41).

David (2 Samuel 22:50; Psalm 28:7), the Levites (1 Chronicles 16:4; Nehemiah 12:24), Asaph and his relatives (1 Chronicles 16:7), Daniel (Daniel 6:10), and the priests, Levites, and descendants of Asaph (Ezra 3:10-11) also gave thanks to God.

In addition to those positive examples, the Bible teaches that failing to give thanks characterizes the wicked. One indictment of unbelievers is that “when they knew God, they glorified Him not as God, neither were thankful” (Romans 1:21). Evil men are marked by ungratefulness (Luke 6:35; 2 Timothy 3:2).

Paul gave thanks to God for his salvation and his opportunity to serve Him (1 Timothy 1:12-13). The apostle also gave thanks for the spiritual growth of others: “We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren … because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth” (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

Even mundane things like food call for giving thanks (1 Timothy 4:3-4). First Thessalonians 5:18 sums it up: “In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus.”

—Adapted from Colossians & Philemon by John MacArthur