Grace and Peace from Our Lord Jesus Christ!
In the last issue I reflected on how we hear the word so that our lives are transformed. We are to listen to the reading and preaching of Scripture expecting to think differently, to want differently, and to imagine a different world. We are to listen carefully and devotionally in order to take the gospel message into the deep places of our hearts. We are to internalize the word of God—let it shape our hearts—so that the word will take on flesh in our own lives. Truly hearing the word includes having a particular response to the word. If you could summarize that response to hearing the good news in a single word it would be gratitude or thanksgiving.
In our order of worship on Sunday morning the next major section after hearing the word is responding to the word. It is fitting then that the prayer of thanksgiving is the first way we respond to the word in the service of worship. We will focus in this article on the prayer of thanksgiving but the main point here applies to all of the ways that we respond to the word within the order of worship (i.e., the profession of faith, the prayers of the people, and the presentation of our tithes and offerings). These are all opportunities to respond with gratitude.
Concerning responding with gratitude – notice that it is not first something that we “do” – it is not first a change in behavior. Instead, it is a change in non-cognitive disposition or attitude. To say that gratitude is to be a non-cognitive
disposition is to say that gratitude is to be our inclination without really having to think about it. The liturgical pattern of following the sermon every week with a prayer of thanksgiving trains both the heart and the will to learn this response of gratitude – to form this as a habit. And for reasons mentioned when we looked at prayers of adoration, it is best to sing the prayers of thanksgiving. This is how the service of worship develops an attitude of gratitude in the one worshiping. And that change will lead your behavior. In other words, this is a transformation of the believer in Jesus from the inside-out.
Speaking of behavior – Christians do good works in response to the good news of our salvation in Jesus Christ. We do good works not in order to go to heaven but as a natural reaction to the deep internalization of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. It is no accident that after major salvation events in Scripture the people sing prayers of thanksgiving (for example, Exodus 15). Saved people naturally give thanks with a sung prayer of thanksgiving and by grateful living. But often those who have grown up in Christian circles believe that you
should be nice and do good so that you will feel good and be happy. Such ethics Drew Dyck rightly describes as “self-serving.”1 Only in Christianity will you find the resources necessary for wholehearted obedience to God and thus self-sacrifice. May you take advantage of those resources every chance that you get.
1. Dyck, Generation Ex-Christian, Kindle location 2004.