The subject we are looking at is Prayer & Thanksgiving; the passage we’re referring to is 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18.
“.. pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Brothers & sisters, If we are honest, we will all admit that prayer & thanksgiving are the most challenges Christian discipline. It is often not what and how I need to pray and thank God for, the most challenging part I believe, is to make up our mind to pray.
Public prayer isn’t that hard, but it’s our private prayer life that looks dry and lifeless at times.
In this sermon, I don’t want to teach you how to pray and thank God for, but I want to address the issue of what stops us from making up our mind to go before God and pray unceasingly every day. Therefore, I’ve name sermon title as “Breaking the barriers to Prayer & Thanksgiving”
I want to bring to your attention two reasons why we fail to practice a regular prayer life and offer the sacrifice of thanksgiving.
1. A wrong perspective of God.
As humans, we often learn and make assumptions about our surroundings, about the people in our lives and even God based on our human instincts and experiences. Sadly, we also form opinions about God based on our human understanding.
When we think of going to Him in prayer, we think ….
- He is angry at me because of my repeated sin patterns and habits
- He gets irritated when I bothered Him by approaching him with my life.
All the above responses and thoughts flow out of a guilty heart.
As long as we have such perceptions about God, we will never be able to see a breakthrough in our prayer life, and we never be able to offer thanksgiving in all circumstances.
Why are the observations we make about God wrong? Well, it because God’s nature is not the nature of human beings; neither does his emotions fluctuate as the emotions of human beings. His yes is yes and no is no. What comes out of His mouth is sealed forever, and He never goes back on it.
To encourage your hearts to often go to God in prayer, here’s two perceptions we need to cultivate about God.
a. As a child of God, there is an open invitation for us to enter into his presence with our prayer & supplications anytime and anywhere.
And here’s what God says in Isaiah 55:1-3
“Come, everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in rich food.
3 Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
This invitation is for all us who’ve repented of our sins and have trust in son Jesus.
Yes, it is true that once upon a time, God was angry with us. He was out to destroy us by throwing us into the fire of hell because of our sinful rebellion against Him. We lived lives as though God did not exist, we disobey Him, disrespected Him, hated Him. But the Bible says God in return chose to love us, that while we were sinners, He sent His only son Jesus to die for us and redeem us back to himself.
Epesians 1:7 says 7 “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace”
God offers a free invitation into his presence for anything in life is because Jesus made way for us.
Hebrews 10:19, 22 says 19 “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith”
Because of Jesus, God has already declared us righteous; his heart towards us is of a loving and pampering Father.
And therefore, whenever we want to approach Him in prayer and thanksgiving, we should never hesitate to do so with full confidence in His steadfast Love expressed through his son Jesus.
The second perception we need to form about God in our heart which will encourage us to approach him in prayer is …
b. He is a God who pays attention to our every request, prayer and always accepts our sacrifice of thanksgiving.
“For the Lord hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.”
“The Lord is far from the wicked, but he hears the prayer of the righteous.”
God also appreciates when we go to him again and again in prayer, even when we go with the same prayer requests multiple times.
Luke 18:1-8 Jesus tells us a story
“2 He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. 3 And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ 4 For a while he refused, but afterwards he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.'” 6 And the Lord said, “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. 7 And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? 8 I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?”
Brother & sisters, our God hears our prayer, the only condition he has is that when we pray, we pray with faith and without doubt in our hearts. If our prayer is a prayer of faith, then he will hear us and answer us according to His sovereign will.
2. A false dependence on our Self
Another big obstacle in our way to go to God in prayer and offer thanksgiving is “A false dependence on our Self”.
Listen to one of the parable of Jesus in Luke 12:16-21
16 And he told them a parable, saying, “The land of a rich man produced plentifully, 17 and he thought to himself, ‘What shall I do, for I have nowhere to store my crops?’ 18 And he said, ‘I will do this: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry.”‘ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?’ 21 So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”
Friends, knowingly or unknowingly, often we think to ourselves that life is in our control, why because we look at our education and think to ourselves that I am well qualified to get any job whenever and wherever I want. We can look at the money and possession we own and think to ourselves, I am well supplied and therefore I can take care our myself and my family. We can look at our youthfulness and think to ourselves, I am strong enough to take challenges and achieve whatever I want in life.
But brothers & sisters, we often forget that life is more than these things we possess, what we think is in our control is just a fraction of things that help us survive in this world. There are spiritual realities in life that we are totally blinded to.
Our life ultimately is in God’s hand, and it is his mercy and grace that sustains us every single day of our lives. Therefore, let us throw away the confidence we have on ourselves and lean on God who is in control of all things.
Prayer is the means through which we express our dependence on him and his saving grace, giving thanks to God in all circumstances shows that our delight is in his son Jesus and on nothing else in this world.
And that is why Paul is writing to the church “.. pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”
Therefore, brothers & sisters, let us develop a lifestyle of prayer and thanksgiving to God, knowing he is a loving, gracious & pampering Father who loves me and accepts me the way I am, even though he knows my past, present and future sins, he loving embraces us in his arms. Not only that but just like a sweet and loving Father, he even gives us a listening ear.
Let us also throw away our attitude of self-dependence, and approach God with even the silliest requests in our heart just how a child would do. It is not what we ask that matter to God, but how we pray that matters. God may not give you everything you ask for, but he will grant the desires of your heart that will help us nearer to him.
Let us pray.