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28 November 2011

The Essentials of Effective Prayer - 28 November

Welcome to “the holidays”. A time when people watch the ads to get the best deals; when fights break out between shoppers; when…..But, wait… we celebrate Christ’s birth! Please keep Christ in Christmas. We can honor the gift giving traditions, but we can’t serve God and money!

Now on to our Bible study….

With Thanksgiving over, the “official” thanking season also ends. But do you remember to thank God when you pray? Do you truly “count your blessings” when you speak to the Almighty? And what does that do for you?

Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven. 20 Daniel answered and said:  “Blessed be the name of God forever and ever, to whom belong wisdom and might. 21  He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings; he gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to those who have understanding; 22  he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23 To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.”  Dan 2:19-23 (ESV)

Daniel interpreted a dream that no one else could. He did it by seeking God. What did Daniel do once he knew the dream’s meaning? Did he puff himself up and tell the King that I interpreted the dream? Did he seek wealth and fame? No! He gave thanks. His thankfulness and allegiance to God were wrapped up together. Without walking close to God,  Daniel would have not been used so mightily. Without thanking God for His blessings, Daniel would not have seen God’s infinite power – not once, but several times in his lifetime.

Daniel's prayer highlights several characteristics of God in this passage. What do you see? And how do you think that focusing on God’s characteristics and our thankfulness to him will affect both our prayer and our everyday life?

I know that in my “normal” life, when I feel grateful or thankful to someone, it manifests itself in stronger feelings of love and service toward that person. It’s the same with God. When I take my focus off my needs, my petty problems, and yes…my selfish wants, and remember that He has done so much, it makes me feel closer to Him. For me, the one thing that God has done that brings me the most awe and wonder is creating each grain of sand. When I contemplate sand and see each of those tiny, tiny grains, it reminds me that God has created every one of us in exactly the same loving manner. That allows me to focus on the bigger things for which I am thankful. I find that when I focus on God, rather than myself, the things in life that seemed important are minimized. What do you think about when you give God thanks?

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice. 5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand. 6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. 7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Phil 4:4-7 (KJV)

Wow! We are to pray with thanksgiving. Not just pray selfishly, but with a grateful heart. And then what happens? – God’s peace will “keep your hearts and minds”. Thanksgiving leads to peace! That is surely not what the world tells us. If we watch TV or listen to the radio, we learn that we are to get “stuff” to get peace. God’s world is a much simpler world than our narcissistic society. His peace trumps any "thing" which I could find in the stores.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. 2 Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. 3 Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. 4 Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. 5 For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations. Psalm 100:1-5 (KJV)

What is the expression of thanksgiving? Joy and service. When we are thankful, we want to reach out to others to share that thankfulness. Service to our family. Service to our community. Service to our nation. All of those, done with a heart of thanksgiving toward God, will show our love and appreciation for Him. All of those will show our society that the Lord IS good. But don’t let external service prevent you from service to your church. If you have a few minutes, ask what you can do at your church. You may not have money, but you can change a light bulb or wield a paintbrush. You may be too timid to sing in the choir or greet others on Sunday, but you can fold and stuff bulletins or help set out chairs for the service. There are always a million things to do in your local church. Ask around. You’ll find gratefulness from the staff as you serve the Lord with gladness.

Prayer and thanksgiving. A happy cycle which brings us closer to God!

What will you do this week to add thanksgiving to your prayer life? Will you stop and thank Him for a specific blessing every morning? Will you serve Him in a different way? Will your thankfulness change your daily attitude? Your life? I know it will change mine!

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