Prayer and Thanksgiving

Asbury Free Methodist – By Rev. Dr. Brent Russett

Prayer – Part 1 – October 10, 2021

Philippians 4:4-11

            This morning we are starting a new series on prayer. We are going to look at the different aspects of prayer: how to pray, why some prayers don’t seem to be answered, what is the connection between faith and prayer, and a number of other topics. But this being Thanksgiving weekend, I thought we would start off by looking at prayer and thanksgiving.

            I love the fact that we as a country celebrate Thanksgiving. In the United States, Thanksgiving is tied to the pilgrims who came over on the Mayflower. For us, Thanksgiving was first celebrated by Martin Frobisher in 1558, and it recognizes God’s goodness for a good harvest.

            For those of us who are Jesus followers, this weekend reminds us of the posture that we are always to take towards God. When we are giving thanks, we are repeating the echoes of heaven.

Revelation 5:12–13 (NIV) gives us a glimpse into heaven.

12 In a loud voice they were saying:

“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,

to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength

and honor and glory and praise!”

13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:

“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb

be praise and honor and glory and power,

for ever and ever!”

            Did you catch that? Jesus, who was crucified he is worthy of all honour, glory and praise. All of heaven is singing to the father and the son praise and honour and glory and power forever and ever. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit have done such amazing things in us and for us that all of heaven knows that the right thing to do is give thanks.

            On your better days, my guess is that you know that too. We are called to give thanks because the one whom we follow is worthy of all praise and honour and glory.

            But did you know the God has so created the world that those who learn gratitude and thanksgiving will find the power of God working on their behalf?

Merlin Carothers, in his book “The Power of Praise,” tells this story,

     Jim’s father had been an alcoholic for thirty years. During all those years, Jim’s mother, and later Jim and his young wife, had prayed that God would heal him, but with no apparent result. Jim’s father refused to admit that he had a problem with alcohol and stalked out in anger if anyone mentioned religion to him.

     One day Jim heard me speak about the power that is released when we begin to praise God for everything in our lives instead of pleading with Him to change the circumstances that displease us.

     Jim brought home a recording of my message and played it over and over again for his friends. Then one day it struck him; he had never tried praising God for his father’s condition. Excitedly he shared the thought with his wife.

     “Honey, let us thank God for Dad’s alcoholism and praise the Lord that it is part of His wonderful plan for Dad’s life!”

     For the rest of that day, they gave thanks and praised God for every aspect of the situation, and by evening they felt a new sense of excitement and expectation.

     The next day the parents came over for the usual Sunday dinner visit. Always before, Jim’s father had cut the visit as short as possible, leaving right after dinner. This time, over a cup of coffee, he suddenly asked a pointed question.

     “What do you think about this Jesus Revolution?” He turned to Jim. “I saw something about it on the news last night. Is it just a fad, or is something happening to those kids who were hung up on drugs?”

     The question led to a lengthy and open discussion about Christianity. The elder couple didn’t leave till late in the evening.

     Within weeks Jim’s father came to admit his drinking problem, turned for help to Jesus Christ, and was completely healed. He now joins the rest of the family in telling others what praising God can do!

     “Just think,” Jim said to me. “For thirty years we prayed for God to change Dad. We spent only one day praising Him for the situation and look what happened!”

            Paul and Silas were caught up in a riot, whipped and beaten and thrown in prison put in stock in the jail in Philippi. If every anyone had cause and opportunity to complain – they did. But they didn’t complain, they worshipped God and God moved and the doors swung open. (Acts 16:22-26)

            Praise has a way of unlocking doors. Giving thanks has a way of calling into prisons. Worship has a way of releasing the blessing of God. It has a way of attracting the presence of God. Giving thanks has a way of releasing our faith in God. It has a way of allowing God to do what he wants to do in our situation.


            So, let us take the rest of our time and put thanksgiving into context. Come with me to Philippians 4. The apostle Paul wrote this book while was waiting in a Roman prison. He seemed to spend a lot of time in jail. But this is what he wrote.

Philippians 4:4–7 (NIV)

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.

            Paul is in a Roman prison, and he says, “rejoice in the Lord always I will say it again rejoice!” All through the book of Philippians, he is rejoicing, and he is urging the Church of Philippi to rejoice. To rejoice in the Lord is to take joy in the Lord or be glad in the Lord. To rejoice in the Lord and to give thanks to the Lord are parallel ideas. As we give thanks to the Lord for what he has done, we have joy in the Lord. As we have joy in the Lord, our hearts overflow with Thanksgiving.

            Paul goes on to say, Philippians 4:5 (NIV)

Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

            I’ve been around some people who have been so “joyful in the Lord” That they have been oblivious to other people. But that is not what Paul is saying. He says to rejoice in the Lord, but he follows it up with “let your gentleness be evident to all.” Paul is clearly saying you rejoice but interact with others with gentleness.

            If you understand the power of thanksgiving, you may unintentionally use thanksgiving as a weapon. When people are in deep mourning or in deep pain, be careful how you urge them to rejoice in the Lord. Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

            He not only knows your life, but he knows the lives of the people around you. Sometimes the best thing that you can do is bring your own sense of joy and thanksgiving and well-being into a situation and be gentle with those around you. That is a posture that brings life.

            After reminding us that God is near, Paul teaches us how to pray.

Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

            We have engaged in that cycle of being glad in the Lord, and that leads us to thanksgiving, and thanksgiving leads us to being glad in the Lord. We have remembered that the Lord is near. Then comes this command.

Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.


            Life has a way of happening, doesn’t it? Stress is real. Anxiety is real. Life gets messy sometimes. I used to hear this verse as commanding us not to be anxious as if we could somehow control our emotions and just say I am going to stop feeling anxiety. But that is not what this verse is saying. It is saying that if you are experiencing anxiety that here is what you do with that anxiety.

            You take the things that you are feeling anxious about- that is what it means by “but in every situation.” You take the situations that are causing you stress and the possibilities that are causing you anxiety, And the things that you worry about – you take those things to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your request to God.

            In other words, it’s not trying to feel something that you’re not feeling or stop feeling something that you are feeling, but you were going to take those feelings and allow them to be a prompt for action. The action that your anxiety is prompting is prayer.

            Most of you know that prayer is simply talking to God, but we can talk to God in different ways. Many times, we pray silently. I have found that when I am really anxious that it is harder to focus on prayer and easier to let my mind get on the hamster wheel of worry. In those times, I have found it helpful to imitate the psalmist and write out my prayers.

            The verse goes on to say with prayer and petition – that were petition is sometimes translated supplication – it has the idea of lacking something and humbly begging that we would be provided for what we lack. It is used for specific kinds of prayers. This kind of prayer is not the kind that says bless mom and dad and grandpa and grandma and the whole world. This is the kind of prayer that talks to God about what we’re lacking and humbly asks him for a specific answer.

What are you praying about specifically? I am asking God that we at Asbury would see dozens and dozens of people come to know Jesus every year. This is the kind of prayer that says something like, “Lord, we want to see more people come to know you in our church. Would you show us specific ways that we can cooperate with you to see this happen? Lord, would you show us if there is something that is holding us back from this happening in our church? Lord, we want to see dozens of people come to know the Lord each year.”

            That is a very different kind of prayer than “Lord bless our church.” That is petition or supplication. How could you pray specific prayers? Remember, these prayers are often triggered by your worries and anxieties. If you were worried about your son, then don’t just pray God help Johnny. Pray specifically about what you want to see God do in Johnny’s life.

            But I want you to notice the next phrase.

Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

            If you forget the “with thanksgiving,” you are likely to move into a mindset that is unhealthy. If you are stressed about something, and you use that as a prompt to talk to God about it, and you pray about what you were lacking and specifically what you want God to do, and if you stop there, you are likely to get fixated on your problem.

            But when you use your worries as a prompt to prayer and you pray specifically about the situation and the answers that you want to see in a humble way, and you combine that with thanksgiving, then something happens. You remember what God has done, and you give thanks. That kind of thanksgiving removes the focus from your problem, and it moves to who God is and what he has done. That Thanksgiving has a way of strengthening your faith and growing your confidence in God. You have seen him work in the past; you are trusting him in the present, so you can trust him with this specific prayer request.

            So, to continue on with the example I used before, we might pray something like this: Lord, we are asking that you bring many people to know you through the ministry of Asbury. As we look at what you have done here in the past, we give thanks. There have been times in history where dozens and dozens of people came to know you. You have called people by name through the ministry of Asbury. We give thanks for that thank you that many of us have come to find life through your son Jesus Christ. There have been people who were very far away from you and have now drawn close to you. Thank you for that. We are asking that you do it again.

            When you look back over the history of Asbury, it has affected hundreds and hundreds of lives. There is so much to give thanks for. As we give thanks, it builds our faith to know that God can do it again and again.

            The verse goes on to summarize Philippians 4:6 (NIV)

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

            Present your request to God. Ask him for what you want. Some people are afraid to ask God for what they want. They are happy to ask for other people but not themselves. But if it is your anxiety and your worry that is prompting you to prayer, then it is going to be your requests that you will be bringing to God. It is OK for you to pray about you.

            The promise of God when you pray this way is this: Philippians 4:7 (NIV)

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

            The peace of God won’t make sense in your circumstances because there are some circumstances where it is natural to feel anxious. But the peace of God will guard your heart and your mind. If Paul was a Canadian, he would have said goaltend your heart. The peace of God has a way of blocking the anxious thoughts that the devil throws your way. And if the devil does score a goal and you become anxious again, repeat the process – use your anxiety as a prompt to pray and bring your petition to God, with thanksgiving.

You will notice that God does this “in Christ Jesus.” That Is why we put such an emphasis on abiding in Christ around here. Being “in Christ”  is the platform from which we can live in a world that is full of stress and anxiety.

            We’re going to be talking a lot about prayer in the upcoming weeks. Today is a good time to remind you the prayer and Thanksgiving go together. Here is what prayers of thankfulness do.

Thankfulness – Honors God!

Thankfulness – Undergirds faith!

Thankfulness – Brings deliverance!

Thankfulness – Is the voice of faith!

Thankfulness – Is the language of heaven!

Thankfulness – Sets the stage for God to move!

Thankfulness – Releases the angels to minister!

Thankfulness – Fuels joy, which is your strength!

Thankfulness – Knocks down walls of resistance!

Thankfulness – Stills the enemy and the avenger!

Thankfulness – Dispels darkness and depression!

Thankfulness – Must precede, not follow blessings!

Thankfulness – Brings the presence of God onto the scene!

Thankfulness – Is a sure sign of acceptance of the Word of God!

Thankfulness – Is the highway that faith moves its blessings down!

            Intro Communion

            We as followers of Jesus, have so much to give thanks for. Today we’re going to celebrate communion. When Jesus instituted communion, he said, “do this in remembrance of me.” we remember that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. We remember the God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son. We remember that Jesus bore our sin on the cross that we could be forgiven, that we could be renewed, that we could have a personal relationship with the God of the universe.

            We remember God’s goodness and our need of forgiveness. We give thanks for God’s mercy and celebrate his grace. When you look at what Jesus did for us on the cross, you can be thankful. Because in the cross, Jesus provided for all that you need.

            The Bible tells us that he was wounded for our transgressions And bruised for our iniquity. The chastisement of our peace was upon him. And by his stripes, we are healed. He called those of us who were far away and paved a way that we could draw near. He made a way that we could receive the life that God has for us. When you look at the cross and what Jesus did for us, it is right ang good and natural to give thanks.

Let us pray

Sermon Questions – Prayer and Thanksgiving


1. What are you thankful for today?

2. What are you praying about this week?

Digging In:

3. What are the similarities and differences between praise and thanksgiving?

Read Revelation 5:12-13. What does this tell us about heaven?

4. Read Philippians 4:4-7 – Remember the context that Paul was writing from.

Verse 4: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!

Definition of “rejoice” is “Be glad in, or take joy in.”

How are rejoicing and giving thanks related?

Verse 5:Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.

Why do you think that Paul talked about gentleness right after rejoicing? Why do you think he reminds us that “The Lord is near?”

Verse 6a. Do not be anxious about anything,

Does anxiety and worry, and stress happen in life? Are you breaking God’s commandments if you have anxiety? How can anxiety help your spiritual life?

Verse 6b. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation

What does this phrase tell us about prayer? How much of your current life gets prayer?

Verse 6c Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition

Prayer is simply talking to God. Petition (or supplication) is humbly begging God to provide what you lack.  Put the verse together, up until this point. What does it tell you about prayer? How does this speak to the specificity of prayer?

Verse 6d. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation,

by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving

Why does Paul include thanksgiving in the middle of talking about praying for our worries?

Verse 6e Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Do you find it difficult to pray for yourself? Why/Why not? Is it a good idea?

Verse 7

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

What is God’s promise if we pray that way? What happens if we feel anxious again?