Friday, March 16, 2012

Faith Says Thanks

Continue earnestly in prayer, being vigilant in it, with thanksgiving. (Colossians 4:2)
We should, of course, always have an attitude of thanksgiving toward God, because we have innumerable blessings. (Here’s a little exercise that can lift your spirit at any moment: Think of one thing for which you can give God thanks. Then see if there is not something else that comes to mind to thank Him for. And one more after that. And another after that.)

What I have in mind today, though, is about when to give thanks for the things we have asked of God in prayer. Should we wait until the answer appears before we say, Thank You, Lord? Or would it be presumptuous to thank Him for it before we even see it come to pass? To answer that, let’s take a look at this very important, perhaps even surprising thing Jesus said about prayer:
Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them. (Mark 11:24)
That’s a pretty wide open statement. Sure, it is qualified by the context: “Therefore” refers back to having faith in God and how to exercise that faith (Mark 11:22-23). And we need to be in proper alignment with God and His purposes. So, for example, a bank robber cannot expect God to answer his prayer for a good wheel man and a clean get away. But when our faith is in God and we are partnering with what He is doing in the world, then this prayer has a lot of latitude.

What I want you to notice in particular is the word “receive.” The Greek word is lambano and means to “take hold of.” It is like when someone offers you a gift and you reach out to take hold of it — you actively receive it. Lambano is used here in the active voice, not the passive. That is, it is something we do, not something we wait to be done for us. Pay attention especially to the tense, because this will help answer the question I have posed. Jesus does not say, “Believe that you will receive” (future tense), but “Believe that you receive” (present tense). The NASB goes so far as to translate it as a present perfect: “Believe that you have received.”

What this means, then, is that when you have faith in God and are walking in proper relationship with Him, you can pray and know that you have received what you have asked of Him. So when you ask, believe that you have received it — that you have laid hold of it — and it will be yours. And if you believe that you have received it, you don’t have to wait until the answer shows up, you can go ahead and give God thanks for it.

Ask for it by faith, receive it by faith, give thanks for it by faith. As one of my friends likes to say, “Hope says, Please. Faith says, Thanks.”