4 Steps For A Better Prayer: Thanksgiving: ACTS Series

ACTS Series_ThanksgivingMy professor, an Old Testament scholar and professional trumpet player, made the comment almost in passing.  It was our last class before Thanksgiving break and finals, and he trying to cover as much information as possible.  After the hour-long lecture on the Pentateuch, he seamlessly and suddenly shifted gears.  “Now, before you go,” he said, “I want to send you off with a question to consider over the break.  To whom are we giving our thanks this holiday? Can we give thanks without a recipient?”  He paused to let the question sink in.  Then, he clapped his hands and dismissed the class.

Almost five years later, I am still wrestling with his question.  As someone who lives in two worlds, one that worships God and one that denies Him, the seemingly benign question is complex and controversial.  

To be fair, America’s first presidents gave their thanks neither to the universe in general or to Christ in particular.  Rather, they expressed their gratitude to a nominally Judeo-Christian deity. In the first Thanksgiving proclamation, George Washington devoted the day “to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent Author of all the good that was, that is, and that will be.”  He went on to list “all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.”

Similarly, Lincoln, in the midst of the American Civil War, described the day as one “of Thanksgiving and praise to Almighty God, the beneficent Creator and Ruler of the universe.”

The Bible, of course, abounds with more specific and poetic examples of thanksgiving. Countless men and women, from the Old and New Testaments, from the Psalmist to Christ, offer thanks to God the Father.  I could easily list endless verses.

I find these presidential examples, however, more striking and inspiring.  Prayer, in any form, is radical these days.  It acknowledges something bigger than, better than ourselves.

Our culture, to the contrary, insists that we can do it all.  We need only try hard enough or work hard enough.  Everything we have and everything we are is our own creation. Everything we lack and everything we are not is our own fault.  

The ancient Israelites, I think, would call those beliefs blasphemous.  God is our only Creator and Provider.  The presidents knew this.  My professor knew this.  And, yet, I always forget it.

The purpose of the Thanksgiving component of the ACTS prayer, for me, then, is two-fold. First, of course, it gives credit where credit is due.  It acknowledges the supremacy and generosity of God.

Second, however, it reminds us – and reassures us – of the supremacy and generosity of God.  It prevents us from believing the we are sovereign creators and providers. It keeps us from worshipping ourselves and others as gods.

After five years of reflection, then, my answer to the professor is simply no.  You cannot offer thanks without, at least subconsciously, naming a creator or provider.  To say “thank you” is to acknowledge a “you.”  

The real question, then, is who is the “you.”  Are we treating ourselves and others as gods? Or, are we recognizing and appreciating the Triune God?  

Only then, only after answering those questions can we truly embody the example of the Psalmist:

“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good;/ for his steadfast love endures forever” (Psalm 107:1; NRSV).

The A.C.T.S. prayer, which includes Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, and Supplication, helps me share everything with Christ.  The big, the small.  The good, the bad.  Read more about Adoration, Confession, and Supplication.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

What's Making Me Happy.jpgHello, dear friends!  Right now, I’m drinking a nice, big cup of coffee and staring at a very long to-do list.  My first instinct upon consulting my lengthy to-do list is to put my head down on my notebook, close my eyes, and ignore each and every task.  I know this because I texted my husband a picture of me doing just that earlier this week.  

After a few minutes of desperation, however, my spirit and my shoulders usually lift.  I look back at the to-do list and, while it hasn’t gotten any shorter, it has gotten a bit brighter.  Almost every task brings me joy in some way: I get to spend my days writing, reading, and praying.  That’s not so bad!  As for the tasks that I dread, I know that doing them will, at the very least, bring this procrastinator a sense of accomplishment and relief.  That’s not all bad!

I imagine there are lots of tasks on your to-do list, too… maybe you’ve been too busy to even write a to-do list!  I imagine you’re clutching your own big cup of coffee, wondering how it will all get done.  Fret not, friend.  I promise that there are blessings buried amidst all the chores and errands.  And, I pray that the Holy Spirit would reveal those blessings to you, especially when you feel too burdened to tackle all your to-do’s.  

Below are some of the blessings I stumbled upon this past week.  I hope they offer you a bit of refreshment and encouragement as well.

What’s Making Me Happy This Week

The Book of Hosea, which I wrote about earlier this week, is a perfect scripture to spend some time with during the Lenten season.  I recently came across Irving Bible Church’s video series on Hosea on Crystal Twaddell’s site.  The thought-provoking series, which includes six 3-minute videos, imagines what Hosea’s story would look like in modern-day America.  A must-see.  Preferably with a box of tissues.

One of the most difficult things about moving to a new city is missing out on good friends’ big events.  Some of my lovely lady friends in DC and Atlanta are getting married later this spring, and I was crushed that I couldn’t attend all the various bridal showers and bachelorette parties.  Thanks to the magic of the Internet and the US Postal system, however, I was still able to send them some fun aprons (like this, this, and this) from World Market.  

I’ve read a lot about Lent over the past week, but this reflection hit me hard in the best way.  If you’re observing Lent for the first or millionth time, visit (in)courage and check out “Burying the Alleluias” from Jen Bradbury.

A few weeks ago, while Sean was at a work event, I bought myself a giant tub of popcorn and a ticket to La La Land.  Oscars controversy aside, I loved this upbeat chorus number and this melancholy solo.  Both songs, with lyrics like “when they let you down/ you’ll get up off the ground” and “here’s to the ones who dream/ foolish as they may seem” encouraged my inner struggling-artist.  I recommend singing along at the top of your lungs 🙂

Wishing you a weekend full of faith, hope, love, and wine!

Scroll To Top