All across America, young and old, friends and family alike will pull up to the table soon to celebrate Thanksgiving. It is a holiday steeped in tradition for our country, and admittedly one of my favorite to celebrate. Turkey and dressing, delicious side dishes and desserts will weigh down our tables and we’ll feast and laugh, and later choose the most comfortable couch for a mid-afternoon nap.
No matter how this year has played out so far, we have so much to be thankful for.
Thanking, Breaking and Giving
As I was studying recently I discovered a curious habit the Lord had as He walked among His people long ago. 3 of the 4 gospels mention this pattern of behavior Jesus exhibited. See if you recognize the same pattern.
Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, and they all drank from it. Mark 14:23
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.” Luke 22:19
He took the seven loaves and the fish; and giving thanks, He broke them and started giving them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. Matthew 15:36
And He directed the people to sit down on the ground; and taking the seven loaves, He gave thanks and broke them, and started giving them to His disciples to serve to them, and they served them to the people. Mark 8:6
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight. They asked each other, “Were not our hearts burning within us while he talked with us on the road and opened the Scriptures to us?” Luke 24:30-32
He gave thanks, broke what was in His hands, then gave it as provision to those around Him. But before anything – He gave thanks. He brought grace into that moment.
The original Greek word for “thanks” in these scriptures is euxaristéō and means acknowledging that “God’s grace works well,” i.e. for our eternal gain and His glory. To give thanks literally means we are “thankful for God’s good grace.”
There is power in our thanksgiving, just as there was in His. In Luke 24:30-32 you’ll notice that it wasn’t until He gave thanks and broke the bread that the men recognized Him after His resurrection. It was His custom to give thanks, break and give. He did it with bread, as He would later do with His body.
Will we be known for our Thanksgiving?
The Prayer of Thanksgiving Springs from Faith
Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” Luke 17:11-19
The prayer of thanksgiving is a bold declaration to the world from a wellspring of faith that there is a God who hears, sees, and provides. When we stop to give thanks, in the midst of our trials, for our meals, or during seasons of jubilation, we are blessing the Father’s heart in the process. We are actively “coming back” and remembering Him.
The Prayer of Thanksgiving Protects Our Hearts
There was a season of my life when I was a young mother that I was tormented with the fear of dying prematurely and leaving my two small children behind. Every morning for months when I opened my eyes the torment, fear and worry would descend on me like a black cloud. It was suffocating. Two things helped to bring me out on the other side of that darkness: the prayer of a great man of faith, and the living word of God.
One of the scriptures the Lord gave me to war with in that season comes from Philippians 4:4-9. Paul gave a vital key to the church of Philippi in this letter, and because God’s word is alive and active it still works today.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:4-9
To come out of that dark pit, I had to get my praise and thanksgiving on!
When we give thanks to God, the atmosphere shifts around us. He shows up in power, peace and provision. Our hearts and minds are guarded and protected from the lies of the enemy. We are told in Psalm 22:3 that He inhabits the praises of His people and when we open our mouths in praise and thanksgiving to God, rest assured He is there.
The Prayer of Thanksgiving Directs Our Paths
Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Colossians 3:15-17
Whatever God has called you to do, do it in the name of Jesus while giving thanks to God. When we give thanks to Him in the midst of our calling, our career, or whatever we are led to do in this season of life, our steps are divinely directed. The path becomes clearer and the road ahead a bit smoother. When we are walking with a spirit of gratitude and thanksgiving, we are tuning our hearts to hear His voice. Thanksgiving is the language and heartbeat of heaven, and when we align our hearts through thanksgiving, our direction is more secure.
Thanksgiving is the antidote to apathy, complaining, bitterness, and greed. It is the cure for fear, despair and anxiety. Thanksgiving opens our hearts to a floodgate of provision from the God who has held nothing back from us. He is and always will be a good, good Father and worthy of all our praise.
Jesus, we lift up our voices and thank You for Your provision, Your protection, Your love and Your grace throughout this year. We praise You for your faithfulness, even when we’ve been unfaithful. We thank You for Your wisdom and Your direction. May our hearts be tuned to the heartbeat of heaven as we enter into this season of corporate Thanksgiving and may we hear Your voice clearly saying, “This is the way, walk in it.” Prepare us for the coming year, but let us celebrate Your goodness and mercy over us this day, in this moment. May our hearts burn within us just like the men who walked with You after Your resurrection. Open our eyes to see the many blessings You’ve given us and may we not neglect to thank You for each one. Protect our hearts and minds even as we turn to You. In Your precious name we pray, amen.
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Lori Anderson-Bowen is the co-director for SC-C3 in Charleston and a Publisher and Market Manager with Best Version Media. Her passion is to see the Church connect with the heart of God in practical, life-giving ways and to see generations impacted for Christ. She can be reached at LBowen@bestversionmedia.com.