“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6

Turkey? Check. Stuffing? Check. Green beans . . . mashed potatoes . . . cranberry sauce??? Check, check, check. Thankful heart . . . ?

Now before you dismiss this post as just another reminder of what Thanksgiving is supposed to be about and how you are completely missing the point, take a minute and actually ask yourself what it means to be thankful. If you can come up with a reasonable, satisfying answer, you might as well as stop here. If not, keep reading.

As a kid, my family would frequently have breakfast with my grandparents. Like most Christian families, we would pray before the meal. Except on those mornings when everyone was particularly hungry and ready to dig in. Then my grandmother would say, “Let’s just eat in a thankful attitude.”

The principle is sound and easy to grasp. It is better to have a thankful attitude than to say “thank you” without meaning it. But in practice, a thankful attitude can be somewhat . . . elusive. How can we be thankful when the government’s solution to insufficient healthcare proves to be an utter failure? How can we be thankful when a hurricane decimates an entire city and more? How can we be thankful when our own families are affected by depression, addiction, or adultery?

Sometimes it seems like the best we can do is to put a good face on things and try to hold on to what comforts we have. But we know that life was not meant to be like this, and the Bible tells us of something better. Paul says is in his letter to the Philippian church, “But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Christ will set the universe aright again, and when he does it will be more glorious than we can imagine. But what must we do in the meantime? How are we to deal with the now and not yet reality of redemption? Paul goes on to urge the Philippians, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” That’s easier said than done, though, isn’t it? But Paul gives the formula for finding joy amidst pain.

It starts with prayer. Making a habit of talking to God about anything and everything. Paul says elsewhere to “pray without ceasing.” Every task, every activity we partake in should be accompanied by prayer.The second step to joy in Christ is supplication. This implies more than simply asking God for things. Supplication is a pleading with God without reserve. It requires us to get on our knees before him and bare our hearts, revealing our deepest desires.

Only when we have done this can we move on to thanksgiving. Once we have made our requests known, we can have confidence that God will hear us. And he will provide for us. That is what it means to be thankful. To acknowledge the way things are, to pray for something better, and to believe that God will make it so.

Paul closes his letter by saying, “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. To our God and Father be glory forever and forever.” Let that be your prayer this Thanksgiving. Glory to him who deserves all of our thanks!

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