My current Bible study, over prayer, focused on gratitude last week. Thankfulness is an extremely important aspect in our relationship with God, since when it comes to blessings, He is able to bless us far more than we are able to bless Him (if we are able to bless Him at all…). For as long as I can remember, I have attempted to make thanksgiving (the action, not the holiday) an emphatic part of my prayer life (what little prayer life I have actually had). I always tried to begin my prayers with something I was thankful for, and I usually tried to end them with something I was thankful for. It seems like I heard a sermon once where the preacher quoted Psalm 95:2
Let us come before him with thanksgiving…
and Psalm 100:4-5
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.
Therefore, in my mind I thought I should always begin my prayers with thanksgiving. I’m not sure that these verses actually demand that we do that, but it’s a habit for me now, and I’m not going to stop.
The thing that stood out to me from my lessons last week is that the great men, who were the leaders of the early church, wrote more often about their thankfulness for people than about their thankfulness for things God had done or things God had provided. A really good example is Paul – in most of his letters, he wrote about how he was thankful for some person or group of people:
To all in Rome who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace and peace to you from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is being reported all over the world. (Romans 1:7-8)
I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus. (1 Corinthians 1:4)
I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now… (Philippians 1:3-5)
We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers. (1 Thessalonians 1:2)
It really seems as if Paul prayed a lot of prayers of thanksgiving, specifically for people. I wish I could say that my prayers of thanksgiving were directed at people more often than they are. More often than not, my prayers of thanksgiving are directed at the material blessings that God has provided for me and my family, and although I don’t think it’s wrong to thank Him for those things, thanking Him for spiritual blessings, and especially for other people and the blessings that come through them, is probably more appropriate (or should make up the bulk of my prayers of thanksgiving).
So with that in mind, I’d like to publicly thank God for the following people in my life. Some of these people are people I’ve known since birth, and some I’ve never met, but all of them have been used by God to bless me in many different ways. And this list is in no particular order.
- My wife Amy – she’s the greatest blessing God has ever given me. I’ve known unconditional love through my family, but never have I known such sacrificial love from anyone more than through her. I thank God for giving me a friend I can talk to about anything, and someone I can rely on in any circumstance.
- My children – Becca and Abby – I am thankful for the lessons I have learned from being a daddy, and the warm fuzzies I get when my daughter snuggles up to me and says she loves me. And I can’t wait for Abby to get here (only 3-1/2 more months!), so that I can experience these things all over again.
- My family – my mom, grandparents, step-dad, and brothers – other than with my wife and daughter(s), there’s no one I can be more real with than these people. I can call them day or night and explain hardships, share joyful news, or just shoot the breeze, and they always listen. I can be my own goofy self with them, and they don’t think I’m too weird afterwards. And, I’m grateful for the spiritual things I was taught growing up that in many ways molded who I became today and led me to a relationship with Christ.
- My friend, B.J. – we met on the first day of school, our freshman year in high school, and we were instantly good friends. We had similar interests (girls and basketball) and we were both kind of goofy. We loved to laugh, and we could make each other laugh better than anyone else could. And to top it all off, B.J. was a Christian and, as we matured, he was a great influence on me, spiritually. Although I had been baptized when I was 8, B.J. influenced me to understand what truly following Christ was all about, and his example was very helpful to me during what was probably the most volatile time in my life, spiritually.
- My wife’s family – Most people don’t get along with their in-laws, but I am blessed to say that I do. My wife’s mother and grandmother are wonderful people that I am grateful for.
- Christian bloggers of the world – There are several people whose blogs I follow on a daily basis (you can find them in the Blogs I Like section to the right), and I am grateful for their openness to share their lives with their readers, and the way they help build my faith.
This list is far from exhaustive, but it contains the people I immediately thought of when I thought about being thankful for the people in my life rather than the things God has given me. I’m thankful for both, but seeing how Paul was more open about his thankfulness for people, I couldn’t help but complete this little exercise, and hopefully in the future I can focus more on the spiritual blessings in life, and on relationships, than on the material things I get. I think God is much more pleased with being thanked for these kinds of things.