“We always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, when we pray for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. Of this you have heard before in the word of the truth, the gospel, which has come to you, as indeed in the whole world it is bearing fruit and increasing—as it also does among you, since the day you heard it and understood the grace of God in truth…
“And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; being strengthened with all power, according to his glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy; giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light. He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” Colossians 1:3-6,9-14
Paul begins his letter to the Colossians with hearty encouragement: he and Timothy always thank God when they pray for them. Thanking God sets a joyful expectancy and lifts our hearts from self to heaven, our burdens from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of Christ. It reminds us of who God is, what He’s done, and that He’s able to do it again. It urges us to keep praying, because we know it is effective in making a difference in both its object and us. It opens fragrant blooms to shadow and soothe our disquiet, and windows to let in new possibilities.
When are we taking time for regular, focused prayer? How can we rearrange our prayers to begin and be peppered with thanksgiving? Perhaps we start by recounting the ways God has revealed Himself through His word, creation, circumstances, or spiritual insights gained. Go through the alphabet and name His gifts, or attributes, or names. Adoption, bears our burdens, conviction of sin; almighty, bountiful, compassionate; Alpha, Bread of life, Creator… Count blessings of life and good things visible and invisible. (Philippians 2:9; James 1:17)
In concerns for loved ones, for what can we first thank, before dictating our specific wants? Beginning with thanksgiving may open our eyes to good decisions and qualities we let criticism and worry obfuscate, or to God’s sovereign arranging of current circumstances to bring about broader results than we initially thought. It can certainly arouse hope and anticipation of great good. In present troubles, thanking God for His presence, faithfulness, divine reasons, and glorious future ends can transform our perspective and open new prospects of faith and trust.
Gracious Lord, empower my prayers with thanksgiving for all You never cease to be and do. Broaden the scope of my asking, and deepen my trusting, that You receive the gratitude and honor You deserve.