Key to prayer: thanksgiving and praise
Sing: "I Will Enter His Gates" "Come into His presence with thanksgiving in your hearts"
Intro: Turn to Luke 17. The last two times I have spoken on the subject of prayer – some keys to prayer. Prayer is talking to God. - to God! - an awesome transaction, that was the first message, the key was pray for God's glory. And the communication is two way – last time I spoke about listening – in our talking with God we no only talk to Him but hear from Him. Prayer is communication with God, more than that: communion with God – near to Him. Sometimes our communication is not too good. Sometimes I'm down in the study, Rhoda is doing something in the kitchen, she says something and me, with my ageing ears does not hear what she says (going to advance send reinforcements) – to have effective communication, to be heard, you have to be near to the one you are talking to. For effective prayer we must be in close relationship with the LORD. We need to come into His presence. Hebrews 10 tells us how we come into God's presence (Hebrews 10:19-22 Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.) - we enter through the new covenant in Jesus' blood, through His atoning sacrifice having been cleansed from sin. That is the basic prerequisite for coming to God.
Thanksgiving: But there is another key to entering God's presence much emphasised in my days in Elim from [Psalm 100:4,5 Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His name. For יהוה is good; His loving-kindness is everlasting and His faithfulness to all generations.]. [Read Luke 17:11-19 While He was on the way to Jerusalem, He was passing between Samaria and Galilee. As He entered a village, ten leprous men who stood at a distance met Him; and they raised their voices, saying, “Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!” When He saw them, He said to them, “Go and show yourselves to the priests.” And as they were going, they were cleansed. Now one of them, when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?" And He said to him, “Stand up and go; your faith has made you well.”]. I was once accused of being a negative person – I think it was true, that's why it stung. My time at the Elim church taught me the key of thanksgiving and praise – life transforming. Lifts you out of the slough of despond, of criticism and ungratefulness and inwardness. It is a decision of the will. It is the outworking of the Holy Spirit. A sign of the filling of the Holy Spirit is thankfulness and praise. "Count your blessings, name them one by one, count your blessings see what God has done, count your blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the LORD has done". Start recalling what God has done in the past, for His people, for you personally. You won't go far before you start thanking Him and before you know it praise wells up and burst forth. Praise must be expressed. We are fortunate in having a format where there is opportunity for all to participate and express themselves in the assembly of saints – we can publicly express our thankfulness and praise. I must admit that I am forced to wonder about those that can come week after week and never open their mouth – has God not done anything for them?! Do they not have anything to give thanks for?! [Luke 17:15-18 when he saw that he had been healed, turned back, glorifying God with a loud voice, and he fell on his face at His feet, giving thanks to Him. And he was a Samaritan. Then Jesus answered and said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine — where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?”]. Israel in the wilderness – forever grumbling – it's not that difficult to do, it's the easy option - but it is very hard to do so at the same time as being thankful. The antidote and prophylaxis to grumbling is thanksgiving.
Thanks in the psalms [Psalm 92:1 It is good to give thanks to יהוה and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; Psalm 26:6,7 I will go about Your altar, יהוה, that I may proclaim with the voice of thanksgiving and declare all Your wonders. Psalm 42:4 These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me. For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God, with the voice of joy and thanksgiving. Psalm 50:14 “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High; Psalm 50:23 “He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honours Me; and to him who orders his way aright I shall show the salvation of God.” Psalm 95:2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms. Psalm 107:22 Let them also offer sacrifices of thanksgiving, and tell of His works with joyful singing. Psalm 116:17 To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of יהוה].
The sacrifice of thanksgiving: You see thanksgiving referred to as a sacrifice – it costs something. You have to make a decision and a determined effort to offer it. [Leviticus 7:12,13 If he offers it by way of thanksgiving, then along with the sacrifice of thanksgiving he shall offer unleavened cakes mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers spread with oil, and cakes of well stirred fine flour mixed with oil. With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving, he shall present his offering with cakes of leavened bread.] Thank offerings were proscribed by the Levitical law. The OT had its sacrificial system, that is what priests do, offer sacrifices to יהוה - but we are priests, what sacrifices do we offer? - certainly not blood sacrifices, Jesus has done that – no, we offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise – Hebrews 13:15 says "Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name." God does not want religious ritual but thankful hearts [Psalm 50:8, 13-15 “I do not reprove you for your sacrifices, and your burnt offerings are continually before Me. Psalm 50:13 “Shall I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of male goats? “Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and pay your vows to the Most High; Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I shall rescue you, and you will honour Me.”] See the association of thanksgiving leading to prayer that is answered? [Jeremiah 17:26 They will come in from the cities of Judah and from the environs of Jerusalem, from the land of Benjamin, from the lowland, from the hill country and from the Negev, bringing burnt offerings, sacrifices, grain offerings and incense, and bringing sacrifices of thanksgiving to the house of יהוה] How do you come before יהוה? - with thank offerings – in fact we are not to appear before יהוה empty handed. [Jeremiah 33:11 the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, “Give thanks to יהוה of armies, for יהוה is good, for His loving-kindness is everlasting”; and of those who bring a thank offering into the house of יהוה For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were at first,’ says יהוה.]
Paul's prayers: Have a look at Paul's prayers [1 Corinthians 1:4 I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, Romans 1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world. Ephesians 1:15,16 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; Philippians 1:3,4 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, Colossians 1:3,4 We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have for all the saints; 1 Thessalonians 1:2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; 1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.] Are you beginning to see the pattern?! Paul also exhorted believers to always be thankful [Colossians 1:11,12 strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for the attaining of all steadfastness and patience; joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 5:20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; Colossians 3:16,17 Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.]
Praise: We enter God's presence with thanksgiving and praise I recall a story from Sunday School days: (Noel's story of heaven). Thanksgiving and praise go together in the Scriptures and I have found it so in my own experience also [Psalm 69:30 I will praise the name of God with song and magnify Him with thanksgiving.] Thanksgiving is a way to praise God. [Psalm 147:7 Sing to יהוה with thanksgiving; sing praises to our God on the lyre,] Note too the role of music in thanksgiving and praise – there is nothing wrong with your time of prayer being interspersed with singing. [Psalm 18:49 Therefore I will give thanks to You among the nations, O יהוה, and I will sing praises to Your name.]. You start thanking God, you do so deliberately, as an act of your will. You call to mind what God has done and thank Him for it – before you know it you are praising Him for His greatness. One flows out of the other. [Hebrews 13:12-16 Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate. So, let us go out to Him outside the camp, bearing His reproach. For here we do not have a lasting city, but we are seeking the city which is to come. Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name. And do not neglect doing good and sharing, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.]
Praise in the Psalms: Psalms is not only full of thanksgiving, it also a book of praise – that is what the Hebrew name of Psalms means "Sepher Tehillim" "Book of Praises" [Psalm 147:1Praise יהוה For it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and praise is becoming.] Praise flows from thanksgiving. You come before Him with thanksgiving and draw closer through praise. Then when you are in His presence you worship – you can do no other. There you are face to face with God! The sequence is thanksgiving – praise – worship – communion. When you are there in His presence you can ask whatever you will and it is heard and granted. There you can pray with faith because you are face to face with the greatness of God and your big problem that you were coming to bring before Him comes into its true perspective – God is well able to do what you ask – He is Almighty! Praise His Name! Nothing builds your faith like thanking and praising God. Time and time again I have seen this at work: I have some burden to bring before the LORD and deliberately, and it takes discipline, set that aside and first thank, praise and worship God and the burden lifts. You spend your time in thanking and exalting Him and then the time to make request comes and it is simply a mention and it is done. I have seen praise and thanks lift a prayer meeting out of the doldrums – it lifts our hearts to God and brings us into His presence. In the Elim church it was almost a set formula, you had to thank, praise and worship God before you did anything else. Perhaps it was to much of a set formula but it is indeed a real key that I have found in my own experience. [Psalm 33:1Sing for joy in יהוה, O you righteous ones; Praise is becoming to the upright. Psalm 34:1I will bless יהוה at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. Psalm 35:28 my tongue shall declare Your righteousness and Your praise all day long. Psalm 66:2,8 Sing the glory of His name; make His praise glorious. Bless our God, O peoples, and sound His praise abroad, Psalm 71:6, 8, 14 By You I have been sustained from my birth; You are He who took me from my mother’s womb; my praise is continually of You. 8 My mouth is filled with Your praise and with Your glory all day long.14 But as for me, I will hope continually, and will praise You yet more and more. Psalm 149:1Praise יהוה Sing to יהוה a new song, and His praise in the congregation of the godly ones.] We are in the congregation, we should be continually praising Him. Thanksgiving and praise are associated with prayer: [Psalm 65:1,2There will be silence before You, and praise in Zion, O God, and to You the vow will be performed. O You who hear prayer, to You all men come. Psalm 116:12,13, 17-19 What shall I render to יהוה for all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation and call upon the name of יהוה 17 To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, and call upon the name of יהוה. I shall pay my vows to יהוה, Oh may it be in the presence of all His people, in the courts of יהוהs house, in the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise יהוה! ]. You have had the sermon, lets put it into practice – just before we close offer thanks and praise to Him, then I will close in prayer.