If you grew up in Sunday School, you’re probably familiar with the ACTS acronym for prayer — it roughly follows the Lord’s Prayer ‘format’ with Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication. Thanksgiving is important, we know that. We sing songs about it. We focus on it during watchnight services. But Tim Keller, in his book Prayer, goes deeper and (convincingly, convicting-ly) suggests that thanksgiving is not only necessary, but that thanklessness is sinful.
Think about it: In times of despair and doubt, many people are driven to prayers of supplication. It’s ‘easy’ to pray when bad things happen to us, or those around us — when the world reports terrible news on a daily basis, when a Bible Study kid’s mum has Stage IV cancer, when I feel incredibly stressed. It’s not just Christians; after the Boston marathon attacks, #prayforBoston was trending. At the end of last year, I heard a radio talkshow host talking about the Pakistan bombings / killings and her exhortation to all to pray, then I think she realised there might be atheists amongst her listeners, and she fumbled around for a while before feebly saying that ‘if you don’t believe in any religion, maybe you can wish them well.’
But when things go well, when life is relatively smooth-sailing, our first instincts are, asymmetrically, not to pray. Keller says (bold emphases mine):
In Romans 1:18-21, Paul is describing the character of human sin. He writes: ‘For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him.’ That sounds rather anticlimactic. That’s the essence of sin — that we don’t give thanks? Is that such a big deal? Yes, it is.
Think about plagiarism for a moment. Why is plagiarism taken so seriously? It is claiming that you came up with an idea yourself when you did not. It is not acknowledging dependence, that you got the idea from someone else. Plagiarism is a refusal to give thanks and give credit, and is therefore, a form of theft. It not only wrongs the author of the idea — it also puts you in a vulnerable position, because you are not capable of producing such ideas yourself in the future.
Do you see, then, why God takes this seriously? Cosmic ingratitude is living in the illusion that you are spiritually self-sufficient. It is taking credit for something that was a gift. It is the belief that you know best how to live, that you have the power and ability to keep your life on the right path and protect yourself from danger. That is a delusion, and a dangerous one. We did not create ourselves, and we can’t keep our lives going one second without His upholding power.
May I have eyes that will begin to grasp that God is truly the God of Acts 17:24-25. Off to listen to the Gettys’ ‘My Heart is Filled with Thankfulness’ and meditate on the wondrous truths there (: