This Thanksgiving? Pray.
This Thanksgiving? Pray.
It’s the time of year when we think about brining turkeys, finding the perfect pecan pie recipe, and readying our houses for the hordes to come.
But Thanksgiving is supposed to be a day of focused prayer.
Whether we realize it or not, we’re always praying. We start praying the minute we wake up. When your alarm goes off at 5am, you wake up and say, “Why do I have to be at work so early?” Guess what? That’s a prayer! Maybe your 3-year old wakes you up before your alarm goes off. You say, “When is that kid going to learn how to sleep?” There’s a prayer. After you wake up, you look at your phone. You fire up the ‘Gram, and you see an epic picture your friend posted from the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. You say, “I wish I could travel like that.” A prayer. You see an email your boss sent at midnight, asking you to do something this morning. You say, “Why can’t somebody else do this?” There’s a prayer.
Then you go through your day. On your way to work: “I wish all of Oahu wasn’t on the H1 right now.” At lunch: “I wish I had time to eat more than this Red Bull.” At dinner: “I wish my kids wouldn’t put edamame up their nose.” Prayer. Prayer. Prayer.
Every time you express a desire for something to be different, that’s a prayer. You’re praying all day long. The only thing is, you’re mostly praying to yourself. Because you think everything in your life depends on you. You think everything in the world revolves around you.
Even when you pray to God, what kinds of prayers do you pray? “God, would you please give this to me?” … “God, would you please do this for me?” … “God? I’m doing this. Would you please bless it for me?” We make the world revolve around us!
That’s why James encourages us to see think different: “Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone cheerful? He should sing praises.” (James 5:13). Sometimes life is great. Sometimes it’s not. In both cases, James says take it to God! Because he’s the one who made your life this way. The world revolves around him!
Are you suffering? You should pray. That’s what the Old Testament saints did. Read some of the Psalms of Lament. They seem bleak and hopeless, but at least the authors are taking their suffering to God. They know, “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.” They know, “You heal the broken-hearted and bind up their wounds.”
So when you read the Psalms of Lament, you see them turn a corner almost every time. You start out with a Billy Eilish song, all slow and sad, but by the end you’ve got an Ariana Grande song, all peppy and bubbly. Now, we don’t know how long it took for these people to turn that corner. They might have started writing that Psalm in January, and they didn’t finish it until December. God doesn’t heal the broken-hearted overnight. But he does heal!
So when you’re suffering? Go take it to God. When you’re happy? Go celebrate with God. Thank him and praise him! Because he’s the Father of lights. Every good and perfect gift comes from him.
What James is talking about here is a radical new way of living. Communing with God in everything. In every season and every situation. No matter what happens? Take it to God!
And James is more qualified than anybody else to talk about this. He had a nickname in the early church: Old Camel Knees. People said his knees were as hard as a camel’s because he spent so much time in prayer.
He understood that prayer isn’t a job, it’s a joy. We turn prayer into a job: “You need to check off these boxes – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. You need to use a system – index cards for everything you pray about.” Now, it’s true that prayer requires discipline. But the discipline is only there to help you experience the delight.
Prayer is like drinking from a mountain spring. There’s pure, fresh water up on top of the Koolau’s. It’s so much better than the chlorinated tap water we’ve got here in town. It’s free and available, anytime.
The only thing is, you’ve gotta hike up the mountain to get it. There’s some work, and discipline, and perseverance involved. But once you get to the top, you can throw your head in the spring and start drinking.
What do we do? We keep drinking the tap water down here. Or we fill a big Menehune Water jug full of water and take it to the top of the mountain. We lug that thing up, pour it into the spring, and then we start drinking. We make prayer into a duty. We think God needs our water.
God doesn’t want your water. He’s offended by your water! He just wants you to come, and drink.
This Thanksgiving, are you happy? God says, “Come and drink.” Are you suffering? Come and drink. See what kind of water God pours into your soul.