Thanksgiving and Praise

Have you ever been invited to meet with someone very important or famous? Or can you imagine that you have? I think I would spend a lot of time planning for the visit: what to say, what to wear, how early to arrive, when to know it is time to leave, whether to bring a gift. I would be terrified that I’d make a mistake or say something offensive. And what would I do if I arrived in a rainstorm and showed up sopping wet or came on the wrong day? Or, what if I lost the invitation on the way? The possible faux pas are endless.

Actually, you and I always have an open invitation to visit the most important and powerful One. We can stop in anytime, for any reason, wearing Sunday clothes or pajamas. No gifts are needed, nor are we required to have the invitation in hand. He has only one request: Come to Him with gratitude. “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise.” (Psalm 100:4b NIV)

That’s not always easy to remember. Most often I find myself busting into the presence of God babbling about my needs and wants, or panicked about the current mental health crisis a loved one is facing. I charge in with my shopping list of things I need God to do for me and then with a mumbled whisper of “in Jesus name,” I leave and hurry to the next thing.

Why does God request that we come to Him with thanksgiving, that we enter His presence with praise? Here are some ideas:

  1. By expressing praise and gratitude we assume the posture of one who has received undeserved and unmerited blessings. Thanksgiving dispels any sense of entitlement or demanding attitudes. 
  2. We become freshly aware that what God gives us, He gives as gifts—freely, lovingly, out of a heart of generosity and favor.
  3. When we thank God for specific answers, we remind ourselves of His faithfulness. Appreciation sets a humble expectation in our hearts that He will again hear and answer the new requests we will soon make.
  4. We acknowledge that all good things and happenings in our lives come from His hand.
  5. We come to Him with praise because it is the right thing to do. He alone is worthy of praise—eternally. (See Revelation 5:11-13.)

As Americans, this time of year we stop and count our blessings. We make a point to give God thanks for the ways He has provided and cared for us. And that’s an important tradition. However, whenever we pray, any time of the year, let us be mindful to always praise first. Let us greet Him with worship and leave Him in awe.

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