The apostle Paul closed his first letter to Christians living in Thessalonica with these words: “Rejoice always, pray constantly, give thanks in everything; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
In these verses, we see a close relationship between joy, prayer, and thanksgiving. As one of them rises, so do the other two. If you are struggling with gratitude, you are simultaneously struggling to rejoice and struggling to pray. If you are thankful this thanksgiving, you have obeyed the commands to rejoice and to pray.
1. If you are joyful, you will be thankful.
As rejoicing increases, so does gratitude. Christians are commanded to rejoice always because always our sins have been forgiven and our King always rules and reigns. When we rejoice in Christ, our gratitude increases as we celebrate Him and what He has done for us. When rejoicing in Christ ceases, so does gratitude.
2. If you are prayerful, you will be thankful.
“Pray constantly, give thanks.” When we pray and spend time with God, we are filled with gratitude for Him as He fills us with peace and joy. A prayerful person will always be a thankful person, deeply attuned to the blessings of God. The one who prays constantly is in constant awareness that everything he/she has is only what the Lord has given. We are only as grateful as we are humble.
Charles Spurgeon, writing of this passage, stated: “When joy and prayer are married, their firstborn child is gratitude.” If you are not rejoicing and not praying, you will not be thanking.