Prayer is about more than us. In fact, it’s primarily about God.
We tend to think of prayer as asking for things because our hearts are naturally centered on us. We’re like little children who interrupt adult conversations because we’re oblivious to what’s going on around us. We think this goes away with age because we become more socially aware. But actually, as the Reformer Martin Luther pointed out, the heart is perpetually bent in on itself. “Scripture,” Luther tells us, “describes man as so curved in upon himself that he uses not only physical but even spiritual goods for his own purposes and in all things seeks only himself.” Wow. That’s quite an accusation. But I think he’s right.
That’s one of the reasons that God’s instructions to us about prayer throughout the Bible is to give prayers of thanksgiving to God. Thanking God for the good gifts that he has given us reminds us that God is at the center, not us. It does that by helping us to realize our dependence upon him. In fact, if God removed his hand from actively holding up creation, it would all collapse. If he paused for only a second from orchestrating all of reality, it would all crash in upon itself. He is the Creator and Sustainer of our universe.
But thanking God also warms our hearts towards him. Because he doesn’t just uphold the universe. He also knows your name and is invested in your story. Thanking God for his good gifts reminds us not just of his power, but also of his love. Not just what he is, but who he is. Thanking God acknowledges him for his role in the world and in our lives.
And that means that it helps us work against that natural curve of the heart. Praying prayers of thanksgiving turns our hearts away from themselves and back towards God. And that’s part of the point of prayer.
Pray with me. Father, we thank you for life! Thank you for creating us and thank you for redeeming us even when we were “dead in our trespasses” and unworthy of your love. Thank you that you loved us anyways and that you still love us today. Thank you that you have a plan for our lives, and that you have a future for us where we get to be with you for all eternity. Amen.