The Strong Affinity Between Petition & Thanksgiving

When the apostle Paul finally leaves behind his personal remarks and begins to give instruction to Timothy with respect to right conduct in the church of the living God he starts with the priority of prayer.

First Timothy 2:1 says, First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people.

Though the nuances of all four nouns describing prayer differ, he probably means to call the church to a wide variety of expressions of this discipline along with a vast amount of it (note the plural form of all four nouns).

Even so the distinction between the last noun from the first three should not be missed. Along with our supplications, prayers, and intercessions – all aimed at asking God for things – we should take care to include the discipline of thanking Him for what He has already given to us in answer to prayer and of the goodness of His being.

John Calvin called this the strong affinity between petition and thanksgiving.

But though prayer is properly confined to vows and supplications, yet so strong is the affinity between petition and thanksgiving, that both may be conveniently comprehended under one name. For the forms which Paul enumerates (1 Tim. 2:1) fall under the first member of this division. By prayer and supplication we pour out our desires before God, asking as well those things which tend to promote his glory and display his name, as the benefits which contribute to our advantage. By thanksgiving we duly celebrate his kindnesses toward us, ascribing to his liberality every blessing which enters into our lot. David accordingly includes both in one sentence, “Call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me,” (Ps. 50:15). Scripture, not without reason, commands us to use both continually. We have already described the greatness of our want, while experience itself proclaims the straits which press us on every side to be so numerous and so great, that all have sufficient ground to send forth sighs and groans to God without intermission, and suppliantly implore him. For even should they be exempt from adversity, still the holiest ought to be stimulated first by their sins, and, secondly, by the innumerable assaults of temptation, to long for a remedy. The sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving can never be interrupted without guilt, since God never ceases to load us with favour upon favour, so as to force us to gratitude, however slow and sluggish we may be. In short, so great and widely diffused are the riches of his liberality towards us, so marvellous and wondrous the miracles which we behold on every side, that we never can want a subject and materials for praise and thanksgiving (Institutes, Book 3, chapter 20, paragraph 28).

On this Thanksgiving Day of 2009 may we remember this affinity and make certain to retain it throughout the other 364 days of the year.

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