Prayer and Gratitude

by | 19 June 2021 | Encouragement

Have you ever stopped to think about prayer? It’s easy to take prayer for granted because it’s such a common practice among those who follow many faith traditions. And yet, it seems clear from a biblical perspective that aside from confessing one’s sins and praying for salvation, prayer offered by those who approach God outside of a relationship with Jesus are not heard. As one of many examples, Isaiah 59:2 (ESV) says:

Your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden his face from you so that he does not hear.

There are numerous verses that speak to the fact that it’s only through a relationship with Jesus that we can draw near to God the Father. What an awesome privilege it is for those trusting in Jesus for salvation to have access to the very presence of God. Through prayer we can share our most intimate thoughts, hopes, dreams, and concerns with the one who created the universe and everything in it.

1 Thessalonians is a remarkable book of the Bible. As described in Acts 17, Paul and his companions entered Thessalonica after having been beaten and flogged in Philippi. Paul shared the news of salvation in Christ with the Thessalonians, and by God’s grace some received the good news and trusted in Christ. Others, however, rejected the gospel and started a riot. Paul and Silas were forced to leave.

Sometime later Paul wrote 1 Thessalonians to encourage the new believers in Christ. After thanking God for news of their faith, he went on to encourage them to live in a way that pleases God. He also addressed some issues about death for believers and the end times. At the end of this remarkable letter, as recorded in verses 5:16-18, Paul writes:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

Prayer is one of the most awesome privileges we enjoy as Christ followers. Like so many other believers, prayer is a core part of who I’ve become. I cannot imagine life without it. And yet, something happened recently that opened my eyes to an aspect of prayer that I’d not really thought about very much in the past.

My daughter is among a small group of those on earth whom I most dearly love. She means far more to me than I could ever express in words, and although it’s hard for me to understand it, I know in my heart that God loves her even more than I do. Knowing this, it’s such an honor and privilege to pray for her.

Not long ago I received a text message from my daughter. She explained that she had applied for a position within the company for whom she works that would represent a significant promotion. She said she would be having an interview, and asked me to pray. I asked for the exact time of the interview, and assured her that I would pray.

About ten minutes before the interview began I started to pray. I had taken out some pictures of her as a child to look at as I poured out my heart to God on my daughter’s behalf. I recalled the ways God had worked in her life as she grew, and prayed for favor as she would be interacting with company management during the interview. When I’m in focused prayer like this, time doesn’t have all that much meaning. It was well over an hour when I received a text message saying that the interview had concluded.

Since my daughter had received a promotion to her current role not long ago, and since numerous other qualified candidates had applied for the open position, neither she nor I thought it was likely that she would be selected. Still, it was such a privilege to pray for her in this way. Focused times in prayer like this are exhausting. They are more intense than my normal prayer process that also means so much to me. These extended and focused times of prayer are very special to me since they tend to involve an unusual degree of intimacy with the Lord, and serve to remind me of the love I have for the one I’m bringing before him in prayer.

A few days after the interview, my daughter was offered the promotion. She was surprised, humbled, and elated, and I shared her joy. And then it happened. The Lord opened my eyes to an aspect of prayer that I’d not really considered very much in the past. I was filled with a powerful sense of gratitude. I felt it deep within my innermost being.

As I experienced this intense emotion, it felt so inadequate for me to simply say, “Hey, thanks God for answering our prayers!” It needs to be said that God alone knows if my daughter would have received the promotion without myself and others praying. And yet, I know from scripture that since I trust Jesus for salvation God does hear my prayer. And I also know that we are encouraged by many Bible verses to bring our joys, sorrows, and requests to God in prayer. And whether or not the prayer offered on my daughter’s behalf was partially responsible for this important step in her life, my heart was filled with gratitude to God.

As I thought about this, I felt that the very least I could do was to spend almost as much time in prayer expressing my gratitude and thanksgiving to God as I had in pouring out my request to him.

There’s no question that God does not always answer our requests as we may desire. He alone sees the beginning, middle, and end of our lives, and he alone knows what’s best for us. There will come a time when we understand this more clearly than we do now. In the meantime, it’s good to again reflect on Paul’s encouragement to the Thessalonians as was quoted above:

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

May we delight in God’s will for us no matter how it plays out on the stage represented by our time on this earth!


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