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The Christian’s A-Z’s of Thanksgiving By Dr. David P. Craig

 

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What do Christians have to be thankful for every day and not take for granted as we contemplate the many blessings we have through Christ? Here are my A-Z’s of Thanksgiving:

A = Adoption – I have been chosen unconditionally and eternally into the family of God: Romans 8:15, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!”

B = Baptism – I have been cleansed, washed, made new, and am now identified with Christ through the ordinance of baptism an external symbol of an inner reality: Romans 6:4, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”

C = Christ – I am a new creation in Christ: 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

D = Disciple – I have a perfect Leader to follow – the Lord Jesus Christ: Luke 6:40, “A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher.”

E = Evangelism – I have good news to share with every human being on the planet: Acts 20:24, “But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.”

F = Father – I have an intimate relationship with a perfect Heavenly Father who loves to answer my prayers: Matthew 6:6, “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

G = Glory – Everything I do can be done for God’s glory: 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

H = Heaven – I know that Jesus has prepared a perfect place for me to live when I die: John 14:3, “And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.”

I = Identity – In Christ my identity is totally secure: Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

J = Justified – Because Jesus’ righteousness has been imputed to me in exchange for my sin I am declared sinless and righteous by God the Father forever: Titus 3:6-7, “whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

K = Kingdom – I belong to an everlasting Kingdom ruled by a Perfect King: Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

L = Love – I am loved by a perfect Lover: John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.”

M = Mission – I have a purpose to live for that matters forever: Philippians 3:13-14, “Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

N = New Birth – I have been made alive spiritually in Christ by the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit: Titus 3:5, “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

O = Obedience – I have a new inclination to love God and my neighbor with my heart, mind, soul and strength: 1 John 3:23, “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.”

P = Peace – I am at peace with God forever by faith in Jesus: Romans 5:1, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Q = Qualities I share character attributes of God: Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

R = Rapture – I will one day meet the saints and Jesus in the air: 1 Thessalonians 4:17, “Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.”

S = Scripture – In the 66 Books of the Bible I have all the revelation from God I need for salvation and sanctification: 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

T = Truth – In Scripture I have all the objective truth I need to guide my every thought and decision for living a godly life: John 17:17, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.”

U = Unity – Just as the members of the Trinity are one; I can be unified with my brothers and sisters in Christ around the world: Ephesians 4:4-6, “There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”

V = Vengeance – I don’t have to worry about my enemies; God will deal justly with those who have hurt or betrayed me: Romans 12:19, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

W = Wrath – Thank God He has punished Jesus for my sins and as a result I will never experience His wrath: Romans 3:24-25, “and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”

X = Xenophobia – I no longer need to be afraid of God: Romans 5:10-11, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life. More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”

Y = Yahweh – I am grateful that God is the “I AM”. He has the power of being in and of Himself and thus is totally capable of sustaining His creation and carrying out His glorious purposes: Revelation 1:8, “ I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Z = Zion – I can look forward to a fortress – my eternal home – that will never be destroyed, or decay – a perfect city to live with Christ and His family forever: Isaiah 60:14, The sons of those who afflicted you shall come bending low to you, and all who despised you shall bow down at your feet; they shall call you the City of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel.”

 

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John Piper on “Thanksgiving Toward the Past, Faith Toward the Future”

Piper J famous quote

A Parable: The Anvil

Isaiah 40:8, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever.”

Let’s begin with a parable today. Once upon a time in land before there were any cars or modern machines – a time when horses and carriages and wagons were common on the dirt roads – there was a blacksmith shop with a large, heavy, well-worn anvil. One day a little farm boy, who had never left the farm, came with his father to town for the first time. Everything was new and different. As he walked with his father down the unpaved main street, he heard a loud clang . . . clang . . . clang. He said to his father, “What’s that?” His father said, “Come, I’ll show you.” He took his son to the door of the blacksmith’s shop. And there the boy saw a huge man, a strong man, lifting a big, heavy hammer with a long handle and a large head on it high in the air, as if to chop down a tree, and then crashing it down on a glowing piece of metal on top of the anvil. He hit the anvil so hard that it made the boy wince with every blow. His father explained to him that this was a blacksmith who made all kinds of metal pieces for wagons and carriages and plows and tools and horseshoes.

But the little boy was fixed on one thing: the long, heavy hammer and the great metal anvil. They met each other with such a loud sound and with such a force that he thought surely this anvil could not last long. The big, strong blacksmith paused for a moment to catch his breath, and saw the boy standing in the doorway. “Aren’t you going to break that thing?” the boy asked, pointing at the anvil. But the blacksmith smiled and said, “This anvil is a hundred years old and has worn out many hammers.”

The Bible: Forged in the Furnace of Truth

Here’s the point of the parable. The Bible is an anvil that has worn out a thousand hammers. In every generation, new, huge, heavy hammers are forged against the truth of the Bible. And strong men lift the hammers and pound on the Scriptures. People with no historical perspective – like little boys who’ve never been to town – see it and say, “Surely the Bible will be destroyed.” But others who know their history a little better say, “This Bible was forged in the furnace of divine truth and has worn out many hammers.”

In the Old Testament, the prophet Isaiah said, “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). And Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

Why is this? Why has the Bible worn out a thousand hammers? Why does the Bible survive generation after generation as a living and powerful book in the lives of millions of people? The answer can be found in two observations: one is that God endures from generation to generation. And the other is that the Bible is the Word of God.

In Psalm 90:1-2 Moses says, “Lord, You have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were born, or You gave birth to the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, You are God.” And in the New Testament, Hebrews 13:8 says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” The reason the Bible has worn out a thousand hammers is because it is the Word of God who endures from everlasting to everlasting, and because its central character is Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Bubbles and Fads

There are two reasons why I point this out. One is that I want to build my life on something that lasts. And I think most of you would share this desire. I don’t want to build my life on sand. I don’t want to spend my life chasing bubbles that shimmer with beauty and pop as soon as you catch them. I want to build my life on something durable – something like an anvil that breaks a thousand hammers.

The other reason why I point out the indestructible toughness of the Bible is to contrast it with the incredibly short shelf-life of the ever-changing remedies and treatments and schemes of hope in our day. Schemes of hope that leave out of account God and Christ and sin and salvation and repentance and death and heaven and hell. They leave these great realities out of consideration as if they were non-realities or inconsequential, like unicorns and Cyclopses and flat-earth theories. These treatments and remedies and schemes of hope put themselves forward with great forcefulness. But how many people notice how short is the life of God-neglecting promises of hope?

Let me illustrate what I mean, and I give credit here to David Powlison in an article titled “Biological Psychiatry” (The Journal of Biblical Counseling, 17/3, Spring, 1999, pp. 2-8). I don’t know if you have noticed yet, but there has been a sea change in the world of mental health in the last five years or so. When was the last time you heard anybody talking about codependency? Just twelve years ago this was all the rage. Melody Beattie’s Codependent No More and John Bradshaw’s Homecoming were best-sellers. Wherever you turned, from books to talk shows to seminars, the diagnosis of our problems was the same: dysfunctional families of origin. Past emotional pain and emptiness were the primal causes of our present misery and misbehavior. And the remedy? Psychotherapy with sensitive non-judgmental counselors and support groups with those who felt your pain and understood your woundedness.

That was in its heyday of the eighties. But then something changed. Something always changes. Diagnoses and remedies that are not built on the full embrace of God’s Word must always fade. These things slip up on you. And you suddenly realize: hmm, those kinds of books aren’t being written any more. People don’t seem to be talking with the same confidence they used to about the dynamics of the wounded soul. What ever became of codependency?

What’s happened? Well, there’s a new excitement, a new scheme of hope. The new scheme is more biological and less psychological. In the place of the needy, hurting, wounded soul has now arisen the dysfunctional brain. It’s not the family of origin now that has center stage, but hormones and genes and chemicals and neurotransmitters. And what are the new books today? Harold Koplewicz’s It’s Nobody’s Fault, that explains the problems of human life in terms of neurotransmitter shortages; and Peter Kramer’s Listening to Prozac, that says we have entered an era of “cosmetic psychopharmacology.”

Here’s the way David Powlison describes the shift:

The world did change in the mid-90s. The action is now in your body. It’s what you got from Mom and Dad, not what they did to you. The excitement is about brain functions, not family dysfunctions. The cutting edge is in the hard science medical research and psychiatry, not squishy soft, philosophy-of-life, feel-your-pain psychologies.

Psychiatry’s back. . . . Biology is suddenly hot. Psychiatry has suddenly broken forth, a blitzkrieg sweeping away all opposition. The insurance companies love it because drugs seem more like “medicine,” seem to be cheaper than talk, and promise more predictable results. Psychotherapy professionals are on the defensive. (Powlison, “Biological Psychiatry,” p. 3)

The point is this: I want my life to be built on something more durable than a 15-year-long therapeutic fad. And make no mistake: the present craze with genes and hormones and neurotransmitters and the Human Genome Project and genomic mapping and chemical therapies – this excitement too will fade and we will move on to something else. And in its wake will be left vast disillusionment. No fulfilled life. No fountain of youth. No utopia. No comfort at death. And millions of people will be left with the question: is there a more durable hope to build my life on? Is there a diagnosis of my condition and a remedy for my flaws and a promise for the future that will not pass by like a fad in one generation, and leave me feeling like an out-of-date fool using leeches to cure my headache?

Or to ask it another way: When Ritalin has calmed you down and Prozac has cheered you up, then what? The promise of these things seems so big, when it fact the pay-off is so small. All the things that never change, all the things that last, all the really big things in life and eternity still wait to be addressed: God, Christ, sin, redemption, repentance, faith, forgiveness, death, heaven, hell, eternal life.

The Eternal Realities of the Bible

Which brings us back to where we started: there is a rugged, unchanging, solid anvil called the Bible. It has outlived all fads and broken a thousand hammers of criticism. It doesn’t sweat the small stuff very much; its message deals with the big things that never change from generation to generation. And what is the message?

The message of the Bible is this. It has to do with four great realities: God, sin, Christ, faith.

1. God

“In the beginning God . . .” – the first verse of the Bible: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). There is a personal, infinite, eternal, just, loving, holy God who made this universe and everything in it to reflect his glory – his greatness and beauty and power and wisdom and justice and mercy. He had no beginning. He is absolute Reality. He depends on nothing. He says that his name is simply, “I am” (Exodus 3:14). This great, personal, eternal God made you to know him and to enjoy him and display him in the world. The prophet Isaiah said, “Bring My sons from afar and My daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My name, and whom I have created for My glory, whom I have formed, even whom I have made” (Isaiah 43:7). The first great reality is God, who made us to enjoy and display his glory.

2. Sin

But the second great reality that the Bible teaches us about is sin. If the purpose of our existence is to know and enjoy and reflect the glory of God as our highest value, then sin is our failure to do that. The apostle Paul puts it like this in the greatest letter ever written, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Notice two things: sin is about everybody and sin is about God. All of us have sinned. There is no exception. And sin mainly has to do with our relationship to God, not man. Sin hurts people. But that’s not the main reason it is evil. The main reason is that God is worthy of our trust and obedience and worship and our joy, but we treat him like a raincoat, leaving him in the closet forgotten until it rains hard enough outside. God is not a raincoat for bad days. He is the Giver of the sunlight and the Creator of the clouds and the Sustainer of every breath you take and the Judge of all the living and the dead.

Therefore, our neglect of God is a great evil and we are guilty of sin in his presence. The Bible says, “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). We are under the sentence of God’s eternal judgment. And we will perish unless God himself provides a Redeemer to save us from our sin and from his wrath.

3. Christ

Which brings us to the third great reality of the Scriptures: the central character of history, Jesus Christ. O for a thousand tongues to describe the greatness of the God-Man Christ Jesus! “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (John 1:1-3, 14).

Jesus Christ is the Son of God, eternal, without beginning, but with the Father from everlasting to everlasting, truly God. And yet, he was made flesh, that is, became human. Why? Because without a human nature he couldn’t die. But his aim in coming was to die. He lived to die. Why? Why would God send his Son to die? Because God’s heart toward us is not only wrath flowing from his justice, but also mercy flowing from his love. And to satisfy both justice and love, God substituted his Son to die in our place. Jesus said, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45). He came to give his life as a ransom to rescue sinners from hell.

This is the center of Christianity. God sent his own Son to provide a substitute for all who would be saved from sin. A substitute life, and a substitute death. Jesus Christ lived a perfect life of faith and obedience to God. And he died a totally undeserved, horrific, and obedient death by crucifixion. Therefore, all of us who are saved by him from the wrath of God are saved because our sin is laid on him, and his righteousness is credited to us. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6). “For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

This is the center and heart of Christianity. This is the deepest need of every human being that no medicine and no therapy will ever touch.

4. Faith

Which leaves one last great Biblical reality to mention. What must I do to be saved by Jesus Christ from my sin? How can I obtain forgiveness and acceptance with God? How can I prepare to die so that on the other side of this life I will have everlasting joy in the presence of God – and in that hope become the kind of risk-taking, humble, loving, sacrificial person that the world so desperately needs?

The answer of the Bible is: Trust Christ. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him [that is, trusts in him] should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Trust him that everything he says he has done, he has done; and everything he says he will do, he will do; and everything he says he is, he is. Trust him, and you will be saved.

And you will live the rest of your life in the place of greatest healing. Where is that? It is the solid, durable, invincible, anvil-like place between thankfulness toward the past and faith toward the future. The aim of psychotherapy and the aim of medicine is to give us healing. But there is no place of greater, deeper, more lasting healing than to be in Christ with sins forgiven and heaven secured, living moment by moment looking back with thankfulness on all that God has done for us, and looking forward at all God promises to do for us because of Christ.

It’s a great place to live. I invite you, I urge you, trust Christ and take your eternal place between bygone grace and future grace where gratitude and faith, thankfulness and confidence fill the soul and make it well.

©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Used by Permission. SERMON PREACHED ON NOVEMBER, 21, 1999

SOURCE: http://www.desiringgod.org/resource-library/sermons/thanksgiving-toward-the-past-faith-toward-the-future

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. ©2013 Desiring God Foundation. Website: desiringGod.org

 

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How To Pray Using the F-A-C-T-S Acronym By Hank Hanegraaff

“Your Father Knows”

 (*Article adapted from Hank Hanegraaff, The Prayer of Jesus, Nashville: Word, 2001, Chapter 3)

Over sixty years ago the famous fictional character named Jabez Stone hit the big time in the Academy Award winning movie The Devil and Daniel Webster. Stone wasn’t evil, but he appeared to be the unluckiest man in all of New Hampshire. Unlike men who have the Midas touch, everything he touched turned to gravel in his teeth. One day he couldn’t take it anymore. He had just broken his plowshare, his horse was sick, his children came down with the measles, his wife was ailing and he had just injured his hand. Although Stone was religious, that day he vowed he would sell his soul to the Devil for a shortcut to success in life.

The Devil obliged, and at the expense of his soul promised to prosper Stone for seven years. Outwardly, Stone’s life was immediately flooded with good fortune and all the trappings of success. Inwardly, however, his spirit had begun to shrivel up and die. He was about to gain the whole world but lose his very soul. As I watched the movie and read the famous story by Stephen Vincent Benet on which the movie is based, I could not help but think back to the haunting words of Jesus, “You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you” (Luke 12:20).

Like Stone, all of us have been tempted to look for shortcuts to success. And nowhere is this truer than when it comes to our prayer lives. We desperately want good fortune. We want a formula that will open up the windows of heaven and rain down its blessings. If you want to get right down to it, our prayers often sound dangerously close to the pleas of pagans, who constantly worry, saying, “What shall we eat? What shall we drink? What shall we wear?” (Matthew 6:31)

Thus, before Jesus launches into the principles of prayer through the most beautiful, symmetrical, and majestic of all biblical prayers, he first warns his disciples against praying as pagans do. The last thing he wants his disciples to do is turn the prayer he is about to teach them into what the New King James version of the Bible describes as “vain repetitions” (Matthew 6:7). So, says Jesus, “When you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (vv. 7-8).

As the father of eight children, I can tell you that I sometimes know what my children need before they ask me. However, what I, as an earthly father, only sometimes know, our eternal Father always knows. There’s no need to pull out the prayer beads or attempt to wear God down by repeating the same prayers over and over. He already knows what you need before you ask him.

This statement by Christ inevitably leads to this question: Why bother praying if God knows what we need before we even ask him? I fear the very reason that this question is so often posed is that we have been conditioned to think that supplication is the sole sum and substance of prayer. The prayer of Jabez, now on the lips of multitudes, is an example of supplication.

It is great to ask God to “bless me indeed” so that I can be a blessing to others. It is glorious that God should ‘enlarge my border” so that I might reach more people for the kingdom. It is right to ask that God’s “hand might be with me” so that I might be led through the challenges of life by his sovereign control and not by chance. And it is proper to pray, “Keep me from harm that it man not pain me.” Prayer, however, is not merely a means of presenting requests, it is a means of pursuing a relationship with our heavenly Father.

As I write, the lyrics of a Country Western song, sung by Grammy Award-winning singer and song writer Paul Overstreet, wash through my mind.

‘How much do I owe you,” said the man to his Lord,

“For giving me this day, and all the days that’s gone before?

Shall I build a temple, shall I make a sacrifice?

Tell me Lord, and I will pay the price.

And the Lord said,

“I won’t take less than your love, sweet love.

No, I won’t take less than your love.

All the treasures of this world could never be enough,

And I won’t take less than your love (Paul Overstreet and Don Schlitz, “I Won’t Take Less Than Your Love,” Pegram, Tenn.: Scarlett Moon Records, 1999).

The point of the lyrics, which deal not only with the relationship of a man to his Lord but with the relationship to his wife and a mother to her son, is that relationships are cemented not just by giving and getting but love and communication.

The fact that I often know what my kids are going to ask before they open their mouths does not mean I don’t want them to ask. Rather, I long for them to verbalize their thoughts and feelings. That’s how our relationship blossoms and grows. Likewise, if we are to nurture a strong bond with our Creator, we must continually communicate with him. And prayer is our primary way of doing just that. A memorable way of prioritizing the principles of such communication through prayer is found in the acronym F-A-C-T-S (F-A-C-T-S discussion adapted from Hank Hanegraaff, Christianity in Crisis, Eugene, Ore.: Harvest House Publishers, 1997, 288-90; A-C-T-S used widely many years).

(F)AITH

Faith is only as good as the object in which it is placed. Put another way, it is the object of faith that renders faith faithful. The secret is not in the phrases we utter but in the coming to know ever more fully the One to whom we pray. Since God is awesomely revealed in his Word, the prayer of faith must always be rooted in Scripture. Prayer becomes truly meaningful when we enter into a relationship with God through Christ. We can then build on that foundation by saturating ourselves with Scripture. As R.A. Torrey so wonderfully expressed it:

To pray the prayer of faith we must, first of all, study the Word of God, especially the promises of God, and find out what the will of God is…We cannot believe as that is not faith but credulity; it is “make believe.” The great warrant for intelligent faith is God’s Word. As Paul puts it in Romans 10:17, “Faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ” (R.A. Torrey, The Power of Prayer, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1981, 123-24).

Jesus summed up the prayer of faith with these words: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you” (John 15:7). 

(A)DORATION

Faith in God naturally leads to adoration. Prayer without adoration is like a body without a soul. It is not only incomplete, but it just doesn’t work. Through adoration we express our genuine, heartfelt love and longing for God. Adoration inevitably leads to praise and worship, as our thoughts are focused on God’s surpassing greatness. The Scriptures are a vast treasury overflowing with descriptions of God’s grandeur and glory. The Psalms, in particular, can be transformed into passionate prayers of adoration.

Come, let us worship and bow down;

Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture,

And the sheep of His hand. – Psalm 95:6-9 NASB

 (C)ONFESSION

Not only do the Psalms abound with illustrations of adoration, but they are replete with exclamations of confession as well. Those who are redeemed by the person and work of Jesus are positionally declared righteous before God. In practical terms, however, we are still sinners who sin every day. While unconfessed sin will not break our union with God, it will break our communion with God. Thus confession is a crucial aspect of daily prayer.

The concept of confession carries the acknowledgement that we stand guilty before God’s bar of justice. There’s no place for self-righteousness before God. We can only develop intimacy with the Lord through prayer when we confess our need for forgiveness and contritely seek his pardon. The Apostle John sums it up beautifully when he writes, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

 (T)HANKSGIVING

Nothing, and I mean nothing, is more basic to prayer than thanksgiving. Scripture teaches us to “enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise” (Psalm 100:4). Failure to do so is the stuff of pagan babblings and carnal Christianity. Pagans, says Paul, know about God, but “they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him” (Romans 1:21).

Carnal Christians likewise fail to thank God regularly for his many blessings. They suffer from what might best be described as selective memories and live by their feelings rather than their faith. They are prone to forget the blessings of yesterday as they thanklessly barrage the throne of grace with new requests each day.

That, according to the Apostle Paul, is a far cry from how we should pray. Instead we ought to approach God “overflowing with thankfulness” (Colossians 2:7) as we devote ourselves “to prayer, being watchful and thankful” (4:2). Such thankfulness is an action that flows from the sure knowledge that our heavenly father knows exactly what we need and will supply it. Thus says Paul we are to “be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks on all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thess. 5:16-18; also Eph. 5:20).

(S)UPPLICATION

We began by noting that prayer begins with a humble faith in the love and resources of our heavenly Father. Thus prayer becomes a means through which we learn to lean more heavily upon him and less heavily upon ourselves. Such faith inevitably leads to adoration as we express our longing for an ever deeper and richer relationship with the One who knit us together in our mothers’ wombs. The more we get to know him in the fullness of his majesty, the more we are inclined to confess our unworthiness and to thank him not only for his saving and sanctifying grace but also for his goodness in supplying all our needs.

It is in the contest of such a relationship that God desires that his children bring their requests before his throne of grace with praise and thanksgiving. After all it was Jesus himself who taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” And as we do we must ever be mindful f the fact that the purpose of supplication is not to pressure God into providing us with provisions and pleasures, but rather to conform us to his purposes. As we read in 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we have asked of him.”

SO, WHY ASK?

This brings us back to the question posed earlier: If God knows what we need before we even ask, why bother asking at all? My initial response was a reminder that supplication is not the sole sum and substance of our prayers. Fat from merely being a means of pursuing a dynamic relationship with him.

Furthermore, we should note that God ordains not only the ends but also the means. Thus, to ask, “Why pray if God knows what we need?” is akin to asking, “Why get dressed in the morning and go to work?” For that matter, if God is going to do what he’s going to do anyway, why bother doing anything? As C.S. Lewis once put it, “Why, then, do we not argue as the opponents of prayer argue, and say that if the intended result is good God will bring it to pass without your interference, and that if it is bad He will prevent it happening whatever you do? Why wash your hands? If God intends them to be clean, they’ll come clean without your washing them. If He doesn’t they’ll remain dirty (as Lady Macbeth found – cf. Shakespeare, Macbeth V, I, 34-57) however much soap you use. Why ask for the salt? Why put on your boots? Why do anything? Lewis provides the answer as follows:

We know that we can act and thus that our actions produce results. Everyone who believes in God must therefore admit (quite apart from the question of prayer) that God has not chosen to write the whole of history with his own hand. Most of the events that go on in the universe are indeed out of our control, but not all. It is like a play in which the scene and the general outline of the story are fixed by the author, but certain minor details are left for the actors to improvise. It may be a mystery why He should have allowed us to cause them by praying than by any other method.

He gave us small creatures the dignity of being able to contribute to the course of events in two different ways. He made the matter of the universe such that we can (in those limits) do things to it; that is why we can wash our own hands and feed or murder our fellow creatures. Similarly, he made His own plan or plot of history such that it admits a certain amount of free play and can be modified in response to our prayers (C.S. Lewis, God in the Dock, edited by William Hooper, Eerdmans: Grand Rapids, 1979, 105).

Lewis goes on to explain that God has ordained that the work we do and the prayers we utter both produce results. If you pull out a weed, it will no longer be there. If you drink excessively, you will ruin your health. And if you waste planetary resources, you will shorten the lifeline of history. There is, however, a substantive difference between what happens as a result of our work and what happens as a result of our prayers. The result of pulling up a weed is “divinely guaranteed and therefore ruthless.” Thankfully, however, the result of prayer is not. God has left himself discretionary power to grant or refuse our requests, without which prayer would destroy us. Says Lewis,

It is not unreasonable for a headmaster to say, “Such and such things you may do according to the fixed rules of this school. But such and such other things are too dangerous to be left to general rules. If you want to do them you must come and make a request and talk over the whole matter with me in my study. And then—we’ll see” (Ibid, 107).

While our Father knows what we need before we even ask, our supplications are in and of themselves an acknowledgement of our dependence on him. And that alone is reason enough to pray without ceasing.

 

*Hank Hanegraaff serves as president and chairman of the board of the North Carolina-based Christian Research Institute International. He is also host of “The Bible Answer Man” radio program, which is broadcast daily across the United States and Canada as well as around the world through the Internet at http://www.equip.org.

Widely considered to be one of the world’s leading Christian apologists, Hanegraaff is deeply committed to equipping Christians to be so familiar with truth that when counterfeits loom on the horizon, they recognize them instantaneously.Through his live call-in radio broadcast, Hanegraaff equips Christians to read the Bible for all it’s worth and answers questions on the basis of careful research and sound reasoning. Additionally, Hanegraaff regularly interviews today’s most significant leaders, apologists, and thinkers.

Hanegraaff is the author of award-winning best sellers, including The Prayer of Jesus, – from which the above article Chapter 3 “Your Father Knows” is derived, Christianity in Crisis, Resurrection and Has God Spoken? He has written many other acclaimed books as well, numbering in the dozens. He is a regular contributor to “Christian Research Journal” and “The Plain Truth” magazine. A popular conference speaker, he addresses churches, schools, and businesses worldwide. He is frequently invited to appear on national media programs to discuss a wide range of issues.

Hanegraaff and his wife, Kathy, live in North Carolina and are the parents of nine children–Michelle; Katie; David; John Mark; Hank, Jr.; Christina; Paul; Faith; and baby Grace–and the grandparents of five.

 

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