By Justin Lathrop
Do you ever have a hard time getting into a regular rhythm of prayer in your life? I, of course, couldn’t possibly have this problem because, well, I work in a church and spend most of my time with pastors. Oh wait… that’s a complete lie.
I do have this problem.
In fact, in my experience, pastors and people who spend a great deal of time in the church—myself included—can have the most difficult time developing a rich prayer life. Maybe it’s because it’s so easy to think a prayer life is just a “given” when you work in a church, when the truth is a rich prayer life takes intentionality and work.
Lately I’ve been praying a very simple prayer that has been reminding me of the power of prayer and helping me to grow in my ability to pray.
It’s the simplest prayer in the world.
It goes like this: Thank you.
I’m not sure what it is about this prayer—why it is so powerful—but as I reflect right now on how this prayer has impacted my life, I can think of a few tangible benefits I’ve seen from uttering these words just a few times each day.
First, it turns my focus to what God has done.
So often I get stuck on what I can do—what I can accomplish in a day, how much progress I can make, what my skills and capabilities and ideas and thoughts add up to. This mindset works for awhile, but all it takes is one bad day for me to realize, in the scope of things, my talents and skills don’t add up to much.
But prayers of thankfulness remind me it isn’t about what I can do, but what God has already done and continues to do in my life and the lives of those around me.
This is not about me. It’s about Him. Thank God.
Second, it helps me to trust what is coming in the future.
Strangely (or not-so-strangely) taking a few minutes every day to notice what God has done for me, the creative and amazing ways he has come through for me or provided, gives me peace about the future.
Suddenly, I see God’s faithfulness really clearly. I can see how I had a specific need and God met it. I can see how I prayed for a specific person would come to know Him, and they did.
I can rest in the knowledge that the future is not in my hands, but His.
The gift of thankfulness keeps on giving, if we let it.
One of my favorite verses about thankfulness is Philippians 4:6 which says, “do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (emphasis mine).
The thing I love about this verse is the way it connects worry (anxiety), prayer and thanksgiving.
Paul doesn’t say, “when you pray, you should only pray for other people” or “if you don’t pray, you’re going to be sorry.” Instead, he asserts that we can bring literally anything—any request—to God. Whatever is making you anxious, whatever is on your mind, whatever you need or think you need or even want—bring it in prayer.
Just bring it with thanksgiving.
I can’t help but think (and attest from personal experience) that the result is a rich prayer life, less worry about the future, a heart full of understanding and love and a new awareness of the way God meets our every need.
It’s the simplest prayer, but it has huge power.
This week, try praying this simple prayer: “God, thanks for ________.” Maybe you can only think of one or two things. Maybe you can think of five or six. Either way, my guess is this: simple prayer will lead you into a deeper communion with a God who cares for your every need.
Justin Lathrop is the founder of Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and MinistryCoach.tv, in addition to serving as a consultant in the area of strategic relations for organizations that include the Assemblies of God, Leadership Network, and Convoy of Hope. To connect with Justin, visit his blog at justinlathrop.com.