I hope you were blessed by Saturday morning’s readings as much as I was! The next instalment of our Reflections on Morning Prayer encompasses the phrase:
“We have come.. to offer him praise and thanksgiving…“
Sometimes we need to be reminded that there are several distinct components to how we express our relationship with God; this phrase encompasses two of them. Firstly we will consider “praise“, when we focus on the “who?” aspects of God, followed by “thanksgiving” when we remember “what has God done for us?” On another day, later on in our reflections, we will think about the word “worship” and will consider “how can we enter God’s presence and engage with him?”
Praise encompasses a recognition of who God is – his authority and his character. We come to a creator God, who made everything and, in the words of the writer of Genesis Chapter One:
God saw all that he had made, and it was very goodGen 1.31
A Holy God, for whom sin is abhorrent, who expresses “wrath” against evil, and who will ultimately bring justice and judgement to all fallen human beings. An invisible God, who we can never see with our human eyes or touch physically. A God whose Kingdom will never end and whose ultimate victory over evil and death is absolutely assured. If that was the end of it, we could be over-awed in fear – but, we need to balance this sense of awe at the majesty of God with an understanding of his character revealed to us in the Bible.
What are the characteristics of the God we worship? Firstly, we have a God in three persons, a model family or team ministry! Each member of the Trinity reveals different aspects of his character. Perhaps, we as humans can see these most readily expressed by the life and teaching of his Son Jesus Christ – “the Word who became flesh“. Jesus reveals the character of God through the “I am” passages in John’s gospel, which merit our deep study and contemplation and reveal that God’s love is his essential characteristic. However, surely, the most compelling passage of Scripture which reveals God’s character, is the story of the prodigal son, recorded in Luke 15. Here we see the younger son in a family, determined to go his own way to a far country, taking his share of the family fortune and rejecting his father’s love. When he had wasted all the money and was living in squalid poverty, he came to his senses and set out to return to his father, intending to seek his forgiveness and to be made a servant in his household:
So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’Luke 15.20-24
Thanksgiving also reminds us of two things – God’s intervention in history to bring us salvation, and the daily blessings he provides as we live in faith. If you have been following our morning readings from the Lectionary, I’m sure you will have been struck by that great story of the children of Israel’s escape from Egypt, and the Passover meal which was provided by God as a reminder of his faithful promise to bless future generations of Abraham’s family in the promised land. Subsequently, we remember how the Jews repeatedly turned away from God, and an enduring means of securing “atonement” was needed for everyone – the reconciliation of God and humankind through the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ. Salvation has been provided for each of us, through the blood of Jesus “the lamb” shed for us on that first Good Friday. We need to thank God daily for our own personal salvation through his death on the cross, providing the only means of claiming the forgiveness of our sins, and bringing us into God’s family as sons and daughters.
Our thanksgiving, rightly, should precede our prayers of intercession. Do we regularly give thanks for answered prayer? Do we look out for the ways in which we and our families and churches have been blessed and give thanks? I was reminded of the story of the ten lepers who were all healed by Jesus, recorded in Luke’s Gospel:
One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.Luke 17.15-19
We need to be bold in asking God to take action in our lives, but equally forthright in giving thanks when our prayers have been answered. How about keeping a prayer diary for recording your answered prayers?
May we enter God’s presence with praise and thanksgiving this week; with my love to you all.