My favorite holiday of the year is hands down, Thanksgiving. Just the premise of it alone makes me happy. We live in a world where we almost celebrate depression. Politics have invaded every part of our lives, and we can’t just exist with “the other side”, we have to hate each other. Materialism, selfishness, and self-worship are the norm, and everyone is out to get all they can and step on anyone who gets in their way. Comedians have even quit going to college campuses to do shows, because the students are all activists who can’t laugh at anything anymore. We are in genuine need of just stepping back and taking an honest look at how good we have it.

For me, God has blessed me beyond understanding. I have a beautiful wife that I love, two kids that I’m enjoying more than I ever thought I could, and I get to serve in a ministry that’s getting it done for the Kingdom. Life is great! Am I a millionaire? NO. Do I own a massive house on a huge plot of land? NO. Am I famous beyond my wildest imagination? Not a chance. 

By worldly standards, I’m not really doing as well as maybe I should. I should probably be disappointed in the fact that, after 27 years of ministry, I’m not on the national speaking circuit. I should be upset that I’m not making a six-figure salary. It should frustrate me that I’m still driving a 2011 GMC Sierra with over 200,000 miles on it, (I love that truck, by the way) and that my family of four lives in a 1200-square-foot house with no yard. As a matter of fact, it probably would blow many people’s minds how thankful I am for what I have.

King David understood thanksgiving.

I give you thanks, O Lord, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise; I bow down toward Your holy temple and give thanks to Your name for Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness, for You have exalted above all things Your name and Your word.
On the day I called, You answered me; my strength of soul You increased. All the kings of the earth shall give You thanks, O Lord, for they have heard the words of Your mouth, and they shall sing of the ways of the Lord, for great is the glory of the Lord. 
For though the Lord is high, He regards the lowly, but the haughty He knows from afar. Though I walk in the midst of trouble, You preserve my life; You stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and Your right hand delivers me. 
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of Your hands. 
Psalm 138

Just like confession, thanksgiving gives us scope, and that’s exactly what David does here. He focuses on all the aspects of God, not himself. He uses the words “You” and “Your” throughout the entire Psalm, and David submits himself to God’s strength and glory and purpose. Confession reveals the greatness of God, while thanksgiving shows us His kindness and generosity. 

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
 1 Thessalonians 5:16–18

When I began to teach my children how to pray, I had them offer up prayers of thanksgiving only. It’s my desire for my children to understand that “every good and perfect gift” comes from God. BEFORE we start asking for things, we need to communicate our gratitude for what He has already given us. We shouldn’t go to God in a  selfish manner, acting like He’s some kind of supernatural Santa Claus. A thankful heart leads to joy. A selfish heart leads to anxiety, frustration, and discontent.

As you pray today, make it your goal to start your prayer with Thanksgiving BEFORE you start your requests. If you need to, think about all the things that He has done for you in the last week, the last month, and the last year before you even bow your head. You may have never done this before, but prepare your mind and your heart for prayer. This is our opportunity to be in conversation with the King of the Universe and Creator of everything we know. He is worthy of our thanksgiving.


Rick - January 4th, 2024 at 7:05am

Hey John, still driving my 2005 Tacoma. It’s all I need at this time. Another thing I follow Kelly K and bought a devotional from his ministry. I like that his prayers always begin with Thanksgiving!

John Kelley - January 5th, 2024 at 12:03pm

Yeah. It's always best to be thankful first.