Mike Gerhardt, August 13, 2017, Series on Prayer Outline 5, Prayer and Thanksgiving, Philippians 4:2-9 Thankfulness is key to vibrant prayers. Thanksgiving is more than a holiday celebration; it is a heart condition! It is more than a celebration of food; it is a celebration of faith! Thank God for all things, for the Spiritual, the Physical, and the Relational blessings we have. Several years ago, at General Council, I had the chance to speak to a lady staying at a shelter in Phoenix, Arizona. She had no job, no place to stay, no money, and no food. But she did have a husband. He was in prison. On top of all that, she had a liver disease that was slowly taking her life away. I asked her how she was coping. She smiled and said she was doing okay. She said God was keeping her safe. This woman smiled and said she wasn’t worried. Satan does not want our heart to be free to thank God for His blessings. He fills our lives with worry. The English word for WORRY comes from an old Anglo-Saxon word which means to strangle. This is an apt description of the emotional pain we feel when we worry. Satan wants to strangle our peace of mind. Have you noticed that some people who suffer a lot worry very little; while others who suffer a little seem to worry a lot? Could that have something to do with the depth of one’s faith?
It has been proven that worry causes sickness. Anxiety can cause heart disease, cancer, migraines, and even diabetes. The Mayo Clinic estimates that more than 80% of their total caseload is directly related to their patient's worry. One medical doctor said that he believes if people could learn to stop worrying, most diseases would be cured. John Haggai tells of a woman who worried for 40 years that she was getting stomach cancer. Every cramp had to be cancer she thought. She was 73 when she died of pneumonia. She wasted 40 years worrying about the wrong disease!
Worry causes spiritual chaos. When we are focusing on worry, we are not focusing on God or His will for us. When we spend time in worry, we have no time to spend in prayer or Bible study. Worry not only affects the way we treat God, but it also affects the way we treat people. We become short and terse. It's evident when talking to somebody that our minds are not focused on them, but on our worry. The Bible says …DON’T WORRY! In Matthew 6:25: Jesus said, ‘Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?’ Philippians 4:6. ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.’ We forget that as Christians have nothing to worry about! We need to remember to just pray, and then let God handle any of the pressures. Reread Philippians 4:6, but this time, add 7. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’
Prayer and thanksgiving seem to go together in scripture often. Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. 1 Tim 2:1 I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving be made for everyone. 1 Tim 4:4-5 For everything God created is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving because it is consecrated by the word of God and prayer. Nehemiah 11:17 Mattaniah son of Mica, the son of Zabdi, the son of Asaph, the director who led in thanksgiving and prayer. Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that if the constellations appeared only once in a thousand years, imagine what an exciting event it would be. But because they’re there every night, we barely give them a look. Helen Keller said: I have often thought it would be a blessing if each human being were stricken blind and deaf for a few days at some time during his early adult life. It would make him more appreciative of sight and the joys of sound. Learn how to pray with thanksgiving and to pray without worry. Hand God all our worries. 1 Peter 5:7: cast all our anxieties on Him. Matthew 6:34: Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Why worry about something that is out of your control? Matthew 24:36 we are told that only God knows what will happen tomorrow. Just be sure you're spiritually ready for whenever it is. God, who is powerful, will always watch over His children. We relate to the physical world with our five senses. But God surpasses these things, and God can help us to relate to the spiritual.
Trust God for the physical and the spiritual. Tell Him you have no other direction to turn to and no other choice but to depend on Him. Then feel His love surround you. But to be able to even access God, we must first have been saved from this world by a sincere belief in Jesus as the Savior; the Son of God; the only way to Heaven.
The results of thanksgiving are Joy, Peace, Hope, and Love just to name a few. In his book Home: Where Life Makes Up Its Mind, Charles Swindoll says: Most of us did not learn to pray in church. And we weren’t taught it in school, or even in pajamas beside our bed at night. If the truth were known, we’ve done more praying around the kitchen table than anywhere else on earth. From our earliest years we’ve been programmed: if you don’t pray, you don’t eat. Swindoll goes on to offer several suggestions for saying grace before meals, including: Think before you pray. What’s on the table? Call the food and drink by name. Thank you, Lord, for the hot chicken-and-rice casserole. Thank you for the cold lemonade. Involve others in prayer. Try some sentence prayers around the table. Sing your family blessing. Keep it brief. Occasionally pray after the meal.
Missionary Nathan Snow said while trying to adjust to the rather curious food on his Asian mission field: Where He leads me, I will follow. What He feeds me, I will swallow.
Thanksgiving without worry will enhance your prayer life.
Believe with me for a moment that there is this massive rock that weighs 6.6 quadrillion megatons. It is suspended in space by absolutely nothing. It is spinning at a speed of 1000 miles per hour and teetering back and forth 23.5 degrees this way and that way. Let us believe that this clump is swinging through space in an elliptical orbit around a burning mass of gas a billion times its size at approximately 67000 miles per hour. Believe also that there are eight other such objects in a similar orbit that are together moving northward at 43000 miles per hour through a space crowded with other such systems. All of these systems are swirling together around a center which is plunging into space at an immeasurable speed to who knows where.
Now let us suppose that a small breakdown occurs in the system. Let’s suggest that this 3rd rock from the sun which we call earth, were to slow its rotation to about 100 miles per hour. The surface temperature during the day would reach 300˚F and at night it would drop to -160̊ F. Life as we now know it would not exist.
Do you worry about this? Are you anxious about this happening? Now there might be someone who just added to their list but most of us do not concern ourselves with the workings of the universe. We trust God to take care of that. We know and understand that God has the power to hold the stars and control the planets perfectly. But do you know and understand that God offers all that power to us if we would only trust him. Why don’t we trust him, even more, when life’s emergencies come? One of the pieces of evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives is a gradual reversal of the twisted pattern of ingratitude and worry. God wants to make us people who exhibit a thankfulness and trust in proper proportion to the gifts and blessings we’ve received.
Conclusion: A thankful heart is a prayerful heart.