Thanksgiving should not be only a once-a-year event. It should be the perpetual attitude of our hearts. In fact, thanksgiving is inextricably woven together with the principles of prayer. Too often people think of prayer as a way of getting things from God. In reality, it is about intimacy with God. A memorable way of prioritizing the principles for developing intimacy with God through prayer is found in the acronym F-A-C-T-S. And it starts with the prayer of faith.
Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. Put another way, it is the object of faith that renders faith faithful. The secret is not in the phrases we utter but in coming to know ever more fully the One to whom we pray. Since God is awesomely revealed in his Word, the prayer of faith must always be rooted in Scripture. Prayer becomes truly meaningful when we enter into a relationship with God through Christ. We can then build on that foundation by saturating ourselves with Scripture. As R. A. Torrey so wonderfully expressed it:
To pray the prayer of faith we must, first of all, study the Word of God, especially the promises of God, and find out what the will of God is. . . .We cannot believe by just trying to make ourselves believe. Such belief as that is not faith but credulity; it is “make believe.” The great warrant for intelligent faith is God’s Word. As Paul puts it in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes by hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ.”1
Jesus summed up the prayer of faith with these words: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7).2
Faith in God naturally leads to adoration. Prayer without adoration is like a body without a soul. It is not only incomplete, but it just doesn’t work. Through adoration we express our genuine, heartfelt love and longing for God. Adoration inevitably leads to praise and worship, as our thoughts are focused on God’s surpassing greatness. The Scriptures are a vast treasury overflowing with descriptions of God’s grandeur and glory. The Psalms, in particular, can be transformed into passionate prayers of adoration.
Come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
For He is our God,
and we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand.
—Psalm 95:6–7 NASB
Not only do the Psalms abound with illustrations of adoration, but they are replete with exclamations of confession as well. Those who are redeemed by the person and work of Jesus are positionally declared righteous before God. In practical terms, however, we are still sinners who sin every day. While unconfessed sin will not break our union with God, it will break our communion with God. Thus confession is a crucial aspect of daily prayer.
The concept of confession carries the acknowledgment that we stand guilty before God’s bar of justice. There’s no place for self-righteousness before God. We can only develop intimacy with the Lord through prayer when we confess our need for forgiveness and contritely seek his pardon. The Apostle John sums it up beautifully when he writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).
Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more basic to prayer than thanksgiving. Scripture teaches us to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). Failure to do so is the stuff of pagan babblings and carnal Christianity. Pagans, says Paul, know about God, but “they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (Romans 1:21, emphasis added).
Carnal Christians likewise fail to thank God regularly for his many blessings. They suffer from what might best be described as selective memories and live by their feelings rather than by faith. They are prone to forget the blessings of yesterday as they thanklessly barrage the throne of grace with new requests each day.
That, according to the Apostle Paul, is a far cry from how we should pray. Instead we ought to approach God “overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7) as “we devote ourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (4:2). Such thankfulness is an action that flows from the sure knowledge that our heavenly Father knows exactly what we need and will supply it. Thus says Paul we are to “be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–18; also Ephesians 5:20).
Before we address supplication, let’s quickly review the aspects of prayer we have covered thus far. We began by noting that prayer begins with a humble faith in the love and resources of our heavenly Father. Thus prayer becomes a means through which we learn to lean more heavily upon him and less heavily upon ourselves. Such faith inevitably leads to adoration as we express our longing for an ever deeper and richer relationship with the One who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. The more we get to know him in the fullness of his majesty, the more we are inclined to confess our unworthiness and to thank him not only for his saving and sanctifying grace but also for his goodness in supplying all our needs.
It is in the context of such a relationship that God desires that his children bring their requests before his throne of grace with praise and thanksgiving. After all it was Jesus himself who taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And as we do we must ever be mindful of the fact that the purpose of supplication is not to pressure God into providing us with provisions and pleasures, but rather to conform us to his purposes. As we read in 1 John 5:14–15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we have asked of him” (emphasis added).
- R. A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1981), 123–24.
- Unless noted otherwise, all Scripture references are from NIV1984.