From Thanking to AskingDaily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.
Recently, we have focused on Paul's expressions of thanksgiving in Ephesians 1:16. I encouraged you to think of the days prior to Thanksgiving Day as a season for gratitude. Our reflections from last week encouraged us to be thankful. Today, we move from thanking God to asking things of God.
English translations struggle to convey the continuity between the thanks of verse 16 and the request of verse 17 and beyond. Our translation, the NIV, falls in line with many other English translations (for example: CEB, NRSV, REB, Message) by putting a period at the end of verse 16: "remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that…" But, the original Greek of this passage doesn't make such a clean break. Rather, verse 17 continues the thought of verse 16 and is dependent on it grammatically. A more literal translation would be, "I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, [asking] that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you…" Thus, the transition from thanking to asking is seamless.
Before we get into the substance of Paul's supplication, I want to consider the close connection between thanking and asking. Sometimes in Scripture, thanksgiving leads into praise (for example, Psalm 100:4). As we consider what God has done and thank him, we remember God's gracious and glorious nature and cannot help but offer him praise. Yet, there are other times when our gratitude lays a solid foundation for our petitions. We see this, not only in Ephesians 1:15-17, but also in Philippians 4:6, which reads: "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God" (emphasis added).
In my own prayer life, I usually begin my prayers of asking by thanking God. Remembering God's goodness by expressing my gratitude encourages me to ask freely, with confidence in God's grace and wisdom. Thanksgiving helps me to ask boldly, with a renewed awareness of God's awesome power. Moreover, starting with gratitude reinforces my dependence on God's grace. I come before him with my requests, not because of anything I have done or any privilege I have earned, but because God is good and giving.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: As you pray, in what ways does gratitude inspire and shape your supplication? Do you often transition from thanking to asking? Why or why not?
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
Who wondrous things has done, in Whom this world rejoices;
Who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
With countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
With ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
And keep us in His grace, and guide us when perplexed;
And free us from all ills, in this world and the next!
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
The Son and Him Who reigns with Them in highest Heaven;
The one eternal God, whom earth and Heaven adore;
For thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore. Amen.
"Now Thank We All Our God" by Martin Rinkart, c. 1636. English translation by Catherine Winkworth, 1856. Public domain.
P.S. from Mark - Beginning with this coming Sunday, December 2, we will enter the season of Advent. This time of year helps us prepare for a richer experience of Christmas as we get in touch with just how much we need a Savior. I have been privileged to work with my colleagues in Laity Lodge Youth Camp and Laity Lodge Family Camp on the production of an Advent Family Devotional Guide. This guide will help you, your family, and your friends deepen your experience of God during Advent. We are giving away a PDF copy of this guide. Click on this link so you can download your copy.
Images sourced via Creative Commons.