Prayer and Gratitude
Today we’re looking at prayer and gratitude. Prayer is essential to a Christian and needs to be learnt as a discipline as we grow in our daily walk with Jesus.
There have been many occasions when I have known the importance of prayer in my life, no more so than when we were experiencing difficulties with the challenging behaviour our oldest daughter Rachel was exhibiting as a teenager! We didn’t know where to start. Actually we didn’t know how to pray, let alone where to start! Eventually I realised that we should ask God how He wanted us to pray. That was what we He was saying to us – “Ask me how to pray”!
When I did this He gave a clear and simple strategy and vision: praise Him for Rachel. Nothing more, nothing less. Anything more would have meant that I was overstepping the boundaries He was clearly setting out for us. Anything less would have been an act of rebellion toward God.
We really didn’t want to do this, because her behaviour was testing us to the limit. But when we got on board with God’s vision and strategy for how He wanted us to deal with, and pray for Rachel we gradually began to see a positive change. So much so that Rachel herself, after about three months, asked us what we were doing because she could see that we had changed and that she also could see that she herself was changing for the better. When we confessed what we were doing, because God had told us so, she did stomp off, but we were undeterred! We’d got in the habit of praising God for her, so we held on and remained obedient to the vision and strategy God had given us. He was true to His word.
Praying in a disciplined way, the way God had commanded us to pray, meant that we went from hostility and suspicion to hospitality and greater love for Rachel. We were grateful for Rachel in a new way. We had a new attitude of gratitude toward Rachel.
I know we weren’t praying for money with Rachel, but we couldn’t have done this if our security base in God wasn’t strong, so how do we become people whose security base is God and God alone? How can we stand confidently with rich and poor alike on the common ground of God’s love? How can we ask for money without pleading, and call people to a new communion without coercing? How can we express not only in our way of speaking but also in our way of being with others the joy, vitality, and promise of our mission and vision? In short, how do we move from perceiving fund-raising as an unpleasant but unavoidable activity to recognising fund-raising as a life-giving, hope-filled expression of ministry?
For us, with Rachel, prayer was the spiritual discipline through which our hearts and minds were converted from hostility and suspicion to hospitality and greater love for Rachel. Our thoughts and attitudes about her were reoriented toward God, and not self. So, with regard to fund-raising the same principle applies; prayer is the spiritual discipline through which our mind and heart is converted from hostility and suspicion to hospitality toward those who have money. Gratitude is the sign that this conversion is spreading into all aspects of our life. From beginning to end, fund-raising as ministry has to be grounded in prayer and undertaken in gratitude.
Prayer is the radical starting point of fund-raising because in prayer we slowly experience a reorientation of all our thoughts and feelings about ourselves and others. To pray is to desire to know more fully the truth that sets us free (see John 8:32). It helps us discover the truth of our identity in Jesus. For us with Rachel, God’s truth was to praise Him for her. So, prayer has the power to uncover the hidden motives and unacknowledged wounds that shape our relationships. As we praised God Barbara and I had a lot of confessing to do in regards to the mistakes we’d made in bringing Rachel up. The Good News of prayer is that it allows us to see ourselves as God sees us.
Prayer is radical because it uncovers the deepest roots of our identity in God. In prayer we seek God’s voice and allow God’s word to penetrate our fear and resistance so that we can begin to hear what God wants us to know. And what God wants us to know is that before we think or do or accomplish anything, before we have much money or little money, the deepest truth of our human identity is this: “You are my beloved son. You are my beloved daughter. With you I am well pleased” (see Luke 3:22). When we can claim this truth as true for us, then we also see that it is true for all other people who claim this to be true for themselves, regardless of who they are, and what we think of them. God is well pleased with us, and so we are free to approach all people, the rich or the poor, in the freedom of God’s love. Whether people respond to our fund-raising appeal with a “Yes,” a “No,” or a “Maybe” is less important than the knowledge that we all are gathered as one on the holy ground of God’s generous disposition toward us. In prayer, therefore, we learn to trust that God can work fruitfully through us no matter where we are or who we are with.
So, God commands us to be grateful; it is for our benefit, not His, that we are. If you list out the ways God has loved you – He saved you, redeemed you, made a way for you, has forgiven you, lives in you, is transforming you, welcomes you into heaven, – we will be reminded of the magnitude of His love for us.
Hebrews 13:15 says,
“Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise – the fruit of lips that confess his name.”
In this context, what is confession? It is acknowledging and recognising God’s hand at work, which in turn requires looking for the places where God is at work. It’s easy to go through the day focused on self; what I am trying to accomplish, overcome, or fix? A posture of gratitude keeps my thoughts focused on God and what He is doing in me and around me. It reminds me that I am not alone.
Gratitude is all about paying attention. It’s a habit of noticing, and responding to what God is doing. Becoming continually God-focused and grateful takes practice.
As our prayer deepens into a constant awareness of God’s goodness, the spirit of gratitude grows within us. Gratitude flows from the recognition that who we are and what we have are gifts to be received and shared. Gratitude releases us from the bonds of obligation and prepares us to offer ourselves freely and fully for the work of the Kingdom. When we approach fund-raising in a spirit of gratitude, we do so knowing that God has already given us what we most need for life in abundance. Therefore, our confidence in our mission and vision, and our freedom to love the person to whom we are talking about donating money, do not depend on how that person responds. In this way, gratitude allows us to approach a fund-raising meeting without grasping neediness and to leave it without resentment or dejection. Coming and going, we can remain secure in God’s love with our hearts set joyfully on His eternal Kingdom.
This is your opportunity to spend time alone with God. The more time you spend with Him the more you will get to know Him as He reveals more of who He is to your heart, soul and spirit. This time will be personal and wholly unique to your faith journey with Him.
Read again the two passages from Scripture, (Psalm 100 and John 5:18-23), and let them speak to you afresh in the light of giving, stewardship, fund-raising as ministry and developing an attitude of gratitude. As God speaks to you, why not write in your journal what you sense God is saying to you.
The benefit of writing down your thoughts helps you to check them against Scripture, and then plants them more firmly in your heart and mind than just simply thinking on things.
Please consider these questions based on this week’s sermon:
- How do we become people whose security base is God and God alone?
- How do we move from perceiving fund-raising as an unpleasant but unavoidable activity to recognising fund-raising as a life-giving, hope-filled expression of ministry?
Go into a quiet place and invite God to show you how He wants you to respond this question.
As you ponder on it why not write down your thoughts and share any reflections with others.
Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous;
teach me to serve you as you deserve,
to give and not to count the cost,
to fight and not to heed the wounds,
to toil and not to seek for rest,
to labour and not to seek reward,
except that of knowing that I do your will.
St. Ignatius Loyola