Grapes: the Simplicity of Prayer…
Fruit From the “Vine” for the Branches…
Part Two: Gratitude…
By Gary Piper
G…God has everything he will ever need therefore the only thing he wants is us. While it is true God does have everything he needs the following scripture brings a smile to his face not only warming his heart but opening it up to our prayer as well. “And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; teach and admonish one another in all wisdom; and with gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God.” (Colossians 3:15–16, NRSV, emphasis added)
“Taking a good look at them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” They went, and while still on their way, became clean. One of them, when he realized that he was healed, turned around and came back, shouting his gratitude, glorifying God. He kneeled at Jesus’ feet, so grateful. He couldn’t thank him enough—and he was a Samaritan.” (Luke 17:14–16, The Message)
Gratitude is born in the past, celebrated in the present, and reverberates in our tomorrows. Gratitude is looking in “times rear view mirror” and saying, “Yeah, God was there for me.” Gratitude is foundational for hope.
Gratitude takes the focus off us and our difficulties and places it on God and God’s potential to make positive changes in our lives. When I reflect back on God’s involvement in my life one thing becomes apparent God doesn’t always make my difficulties go away but his presence always affects positive changes. Back in the early 1980’s I was diagnosed with Myasthenia Gravis and at a Wednesday Night Prayer and Testimony Service a kindly old gentleman prayed that I be healed. However, what he didn’t know was because of the difficulties I was experiencing my relationship with God was growing by leaps and bounds so I prayed, “Not now please God I am going spiritually to much.” God was making positive changes in my life while at the same time not touching the difficulties. Even though we pray for others and for ourselves prayer is not about us. Prayer does not open God up to us because God is always open to us, prayer opens our hearts up to God thus making a connection between our hearts and his heart.
“Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you.” (1 Peter 4:12, NLT) One of the difficulties we humans experience when showing our gratitude to God is getting past our sometime tendency to blame God for our difficulties or when not blaming him at least accusing him of not loving us and standing by as our life goes down the drain. “Don’t blame God when you are tempted! God cannot be tempted by evil, and he doesn’t use evil to tempt others. We are tempted by our own desires that drag us off and trap us. Our desires make us sin, and when sin is finished with us, it leaves us dead.” (James 1:13–15, CEV) While I have never blamed God for the storms in my life I have accused him of neglecting me and prayed, “Do not abandon me, O Lord. Do not stand at a distance, my God. Come quickly to help me, O Lord my savior.” (Psalm 38:21–22, NLT)
Paul writing in 2 Corinthians takes living a life of gratitude beyond what he wrote in chapter 3 of Colossians (above) to a level deeper than just saying, “Thank you for the blessings God.” Taking it the “discipleship in action” or “living out the body of Christ” level. “Carrying out this social relief work involves far more than helping meet the bare needs of poor Christians. It also produces abundant and bountiful thanksgivings to God. This relief offering is a prod to live at your very best, showing your gratitude to God by being openly obedient to the plain meaning of the Message of Christ. You show your gratitude through your generous offerings to your needy brothers and sisters, and really toward everyone. Meanwhile, moved by the extravagance of God in your lives, they’ll respond by praying for you in passionate intercession for whatever you need. Thank God for this gift, his gift. No language can praise it enough!” (2 Corinthians 9:12-15 MSG, emphasis mine)
A praying life lived in gratitude goes far beyond just the words of prayer it is a giving life based on the blessings God has given, is giving, and will give. Praying out of gratitude not only acknowledging God has already examined motives but also for us to examine our motives as well. I have discovered over the years that praying involves more than just words it involves our entire life from our needs, to our motivations, to the way we live our lives, to the way we respond to God’s love, to the way we respond to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, to the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me. You know when I sit down or stand up. You know my thoughts even when I’m far away. You see me when I travel and when I rest at home. You know everything I do. You know what I am going to say even before I say it, Lord. You go before me and follow me. You place your hand of blessing on my head. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too great for me to understand!” (Psalm 139:1–6, NLT)
“Scriptures marked MSG have been taken from THE MESSAGE. Copyright 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002. Used by permission of NavPress Publishing Group.”
Scriptures marked CEV, “Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.
“The Scripture quotations contained herein are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989, by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the U.S.A., and are used by permission. All rights reserved.”
“Scripture quotations marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.”