Surely it’s significant that Paul’s first recorded prayer begins first with thanksgiving. It’s as if Paul had said, “I commence my epistle by giving thanks to God.” Before he made any request he simply started with thanksgiving.
What light does this order shed upon our own prayer life? Thanklessness is one of the most despicable attitudes. How do you react to this attitude in your children or in others? Yet think of your own prayer life and the proportion of thanksgiving as compared to supplication. How often do we make request but how much less do we really thank God?
Perhaps this priority in Paul’s prayers was behind his continual joy. Recall Philippians 1:3-4 “I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy.” Nothing is more calculated to dispel a spirit of gloom from the soul than the cultivation of gratitude and praise. This is not just optimism: “Things could be worse; look on the bright side.” The child of God in the darkest situation is called to thank God. I’ve found when I am most miserable I am least thankful, and when I am most thankful I am least miserable.
Perhaps this was the reason so many of Paul’s prayers were favorably answered. Surely there is a connection between thanksgiving and answer. Consider how often Paul thanked God in prayer (1 Corinthians 1: 4; Ephesians 1:16; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; Philemon 1:4). If we have not acknowledged the goodness and grace of God for previous mercies, can we expect Him to continue bestowing them upon the ungrateful? Thank God He has given to the ungrateful. But we cannot expect Him to pour out richly upon those who refuse to render thanksgiving.
“Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and be not poorer but richer for having made it.” A. W. Tozer