A number of years ago, the leadership of our church held a retreat in January. Each year we do this to get our focus on what we are doing as a body of believers. It gives us a chance to examine our motives and be reminded of what we are about as disciples of Christ. In January 2005, our retreat focused on getting to know God through prayer. At the beginning of the retreat, the leader, Reverend Aaron Brown, asked each of us to spend five minutes in a prayer of thanksgiving to God. We were told to speak our prayers out loud and to focus on all that we are thankful for.
It was amazing to hear the things that we take for granted voiced and the prayers of thanksgiving filled the room. I’m sure that we have no idea how much that meant to God. To hear his people thanking him for jobs, cars, the blood of Jesus, for our homes, families, our education, for the beauty in the world. It had to be a pleasing aroma to him.
Five minutes, that was all that we spent in thanksgiving, and yet it was so powerful. There are many days that I praise God for long periods of time. It is easy to get started on the attributes of God and continue praising him, but I guess I just don’t usually thank him for specifics and intentionally spend five minutes doing it. The concept is really Biblical. In Psalm 100 we are told to enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Our hearts are instructed to be thankful to God in all circumstances. 1 Thessalonians 5:18. We read in Philippians that we are to lift our prayers and petitions to God with thanksgiving.
Thanksgiving is a natural way to communicate with God, but five minutes? That seems like such a long time to spend speaking nothing but thanks.
As I write these words, we are on the eve of the National Day of Prayer, it is followed by 10 days of preparation for the Global Day of Prayer. The Global Day of Prayer falls on the day of Pentecost, one of the most revered days in the church calendar. I have made a commitment to God to spend one hour in prayer each day for the next 11 days. That means getting up earlier or staying up later to make this happen.
Not only will I spend an hour in prayer each day, but I am making the commitment to spend five minutes of those hours in thanksgiving. I want God to know how much I appreciate all that he has done for me. I want him to know that I don’t take his gifts for granted. I want him to know that he has a child who has gratitude in her heart for the blessings in my life.
I don’t make this commitment to boast or brag, I am not expecting anyone to think any better of me for doing this, but I do say it to make myself accountable for carrying out what I said I would do. If I think that even one person may ask me how the prayer vigil went, then it will make me stick with it.
One thing that I am hoping will come out of this, is maybe I will form a habit in those 11 days and will continue thanking God every time I come to him in prayer.
I remember when I first began a devotional time. I would sit down with my little devotional book and my Bible and spend five minutes with God. That included the time it took for me to find the scripture and the prayer at the end.
If I could make the first five minutes of my time with God purely a time of thanksgiving, that would be truly awesome. One thing I noticed when we had that prayer time, the focus was completely on God and not me. When we thank him for all he has given us, we are acknowledging him as our provider. I’m sure that he smiles at us when we thank him for his provision.
If you have trouble thinking of things to thank God for, use this simple exercise. Go to these scriptures: Psalm 13:5-6; Psalm 100; Colossians 3:17 and James 1:17 and pray them back to God.
Colossians 3:17 - Father, I am so thankful that whatever I do, whether in word or deed, I do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus and I thank you God through him.
It’s also easy to just look around you and begin to thank him for all of it. Be specific. Father, I thank you for my bookshelves and all the books that I have to fill it. Thank you for the clothing on my back, etc.
I used to wonder how someone could pray for an hour. It seemed that we couldn’t possibly have that much to talk to God about. He was busy after all and probably didn’t want to hear us babble on and on about all our problems. But the more I spend time in his presence, the more I’m convinced that he loves to hear our voices. He enjoys the fact that we come to him on our own to spend time with him.
It’s good to sometimes just sit in his presence and not say anything. It is those times that he can speak to us. I have noticed that when my mind is uncluttered, that is when he speaks. Usually when I am doing mindless tasks like washing the dishes, making the bed, folding laundry. Keep your ears attuned to him, it’s easy when you spend time with him on a regular basis. His voice becomes more familiar and it is a beautiful voice.
I’m going to time myself and write out a five minute prayer of thanksgiving. You may quit reading now and write your own prayer. After all, he wants to hear from you!
Father, I just want to thank you for the beauty in this day, the sun is shining and the trees are breaking out in leaf. I thank you for the birds and their songs. I thank you that I have new hearing aids and can hear those songs. I thank you that I have a home and a job and reliable transportation. I thank you for my husband and my childern and grandchildren. I thank you that I have Godly parents and that my sisters are all born again believers. I thank you for the food in my refrigerator and cupboards. I thank you that we can go to the store and find food on the shelves. I thank you that our country has dedicated a day of prayer to you. I thank you that the people in Africa have pushed for a global day of prayer. I thank you that your spirit lives in me and directs my prayers. I thank you that I have a computer and that you have given me wisdom and knowledge to use it. I thank you that you have given me strength to finish this devotional book. Amen.