When I was a little boy, my dad sometimes filled in as a preacher at little congregations. What he lacked in polish, he made up for in passion and colorful stories. One of his favorite sermons that I heard several times was on prayer. Dad's specific emphasis was always including thanksgiving in each and every prayer. He grew tired of "gimmie prayers" — the kind of prayers that only ask for things for others and ourselves, but have little praise of God and even less thanksgiving given to him.

Dad always felt that we could thank God regardless of our circumstances because of who he is, what he has done for us, what he has promised to do in our future, and what he is continuing to do in our lives. Dad's infamous line in his prayer sermon went something like this: "Even pigs grunt in appreciation to their master when he brings them their slop, surely we should pause long enough to talk to the Father and include a few words of thanksgiving."

While I know this isn't the most appetizing image, nor is it the deepest theological statement known to Christian communication, it does colorfully make the point. In many ways, the Thanksgiving holiday in the USA demonstrates it. We dedicate one holiday a year to giving thanks to our Creator for his blessings and care for our world and for us. Even on most of our best years, shopping and football still swallow up the "giving thanks" focus of the Thanksgiving holiday.

Our family has been truly blessed with Thanksgiving this year. We've been with all of our immediate family. We've given thanks privately as a family and publicly with God's people. We've enjoyed a beautiful snowfall, games, football, conversation, recreation, shopping, and lots of incredibly good food. We've been blessed to be able to give thanks! However, my prayer coming out of this Thanksgiving is for more than safe travel, good health, and a blessed Christmas season. My deepest prayer is that we all will be committed to thanking and praising God every day, in every prayer, with genuine admiration, adoration, and appreciation. God's blessings are rich and real no matter what our apparent circumstances suggest. Our conversations with the Father should always be seasoned with a strong portion of thanksgiving.

Remember Paul's words to the Philippians:

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:4-6 TNIV, emphasis mine).

Those prayers must be offered always with thanksgiving!
Paul taught the early Christians that joy and peace come to hearts that pray ... but those prayers must be offered always with thanksgiving!