Grace Family Bible Church

Prayer and Thanksgiving in the Dispensation of Grace

By: Scott Morton

Colossians 1:3-4

We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, [4] Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints,

As the Apostle Paul continues the beginning of the epistle to those in Colossae, he starts to speak of the issues of prayer and thanksgiving. These are two concepts which he ties together throughout his epistles. It is important to see this concept, as this has a direct impact on the life of a believer today.

There are several passages which we see these two ideas tied together:

Philippians 4:6-7

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. [7] And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

This passage shows how these two things are tied together. The members of the Body of Christ are to be praying for all things in order for the anxiety (be careful) to be dealt with properly. Paul states we are to be doing this with thanksgiving in order to have this be a part of our life.

As we are looking at these passages, it is important to have an understanding of what the word prayer means. The following comes from the 1828 Webster's Dictionary:

PRAYER, n. In a general sense, the act of asking for a favor, and particularly with earnestness.

1. In worship, a solemn address to the Supreme Being, consisting of adoration, or an expression of our sense of God's glorious perfections, confession of our sins, supplication for mercy and forgiveness, intercession for blessings on others, and thanksgiving, or an expression of gratitude to God for his mercies and benefits. A prayer however may consist of a single petition, and it may be extemporaneous, written or printed.

2. A formula of church service, or of worship, public or private.

3. Practice of supplication.

As he is famed for mildness, peace and prayer.

4. That part of a memorial or petition to a public body, which specifies the request or thing desired to be done or granted, as distinct from the recital of facts or reasons for the grant. We say, the prayer of the petition is that the petitioner may be discharged from arrest.

These definitions show what prayer is. It is communication with God and reflects our understanding of the doctrine for today. We should always pray consistent with the doctrine which is laid out in Romans through Philemon, as this is the doctrinal information which applies directly to our lives. Paul explains something very important about prayer as well:

Romans 8:26-28

Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. [27] And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. [28] And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

The Spirit helps in our prayer life. We do not always pray for things consistent with the doctrine, or even understand what might be the best for us. This is where the intercession comes in from the Spirit. The prayer that we offer up to God is taken and transformed to match the will of God. This is the prayer which is truly offered up to God and is answered by Him.

This is why individuals struggle and think their prayers have not been answered. They have already come up with in their mind what the answer to their prayer should be. Because of this, they are disappointed when the answer does not match theirs, leading them to think God is not answering their prayer. God is answering their prayer, but He is not answering it in the manner which they think. This is what leads to so much confusion for individuals today.

Things do work out according to the will of God. This is why we have to study the Word of God to truly understand what is being told to us about the doctrinal message for today, leading us to having the comfort of knowing God is dealing with us according to the doctrine.

The issue of prayer is always tied in with the issue of thanksgiving. Paul lists these things together many times in his epistles:

1 Timothy 2:1-2

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; [2] For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.

Colossians 1:9-14

For this cause we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; [10] That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; [11] Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness; [12] Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: [13] Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: [14] In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins:

Philippians 4:6-7

Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. [7] And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

These two passages are examples of how Paul ties these together. Individuals should demonstrate thankfulness towards God at all times in our lives. Sometimes it does not feel as if this is easy to do, depending on the circumstances we are facing at that particular time. When things are not going well, individuals tend to not be thankful for things. However, we can thank God for all things. We have our salvation (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), which means we are going to spend eternity with Him in the heavenly places. This is something we can truly be thankful for in all situations.

Paul demonstrates this in some examples which are recorded for us:

1 Timothy 2:1-4

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; [2] For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. [3] For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; [4] Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Paul shows here how prayer and thanksgiving should be made for all of mankind. This means the people we like and the people we do not like. While it may be easy to think about this related to the members of the Body of Christ and praying for them, Paul is indicating these things are to be done even for those who we do not like.

This extends out to those who are in positions of leadership in the government. We tend to think of doing this easier for those who we agree with. Paul states it is to be done for all who are in authority, which means even the leaders who we do not agree with. In the United States, the last few Presidents have been polarizing individuals where someone tends to agree with and like them or does not agree with and hates them. No matter what someone thinks about the individual, the prayer and thanksgiving is supposed to be there. This is for a distinct purpose, as we are looking to live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. This means a life that is free from alarm or disturbance (quiet) and free from conflict (peaceable). This is the life everyone should want, which is why we should be praying for it.

1 Timothy 4:4-5

For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving: [5] For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

Another example the Apostle Paul gives with this is eating. In this dispensation, we are free to eat all things. This was not true of the Israel, which had dietary restrictions which can be seen in Leviticus 11. The only thing Paul tells us is we are to pray, give thanks, and have the Word of God. These things show how we are doing the things which God intends for us.

Paul was thankful for those who are the members of the Body of Christ, who he is writing this epistle to. He speaks about how he is thankful for them because of the faith they were demonstrating. The issue of where faith comes from is clearly laid out by Paul:

Romans 10:17

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

It is clear that the only source of faith is from the Word of God. This is what gives us the information which faith is built out of. Faith is identified as being the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). During this dispensation we see the truth of this. We are not given the signs to be able to see God is dealing with us. We have all spiritual blessings in heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3), which means we only know we have these things because the Word of God tells us we have them.

The author of the book of Hebrews also identifies an individual cannot please God without faith (Hebrews 11:6). This shows how important it is to have the faith which can only come from the Word of God. As we study the Word of God rightly divided, we take in the information which is needed in order to make we have the doctrine built up in us to be doing the things which are pleasing to God.

These are the things which the Apostle Paul saw in the members of the Body of Christ as he was writing unto them. He saw how they were building on the doctrine given in order to do the things which they should do. This is why Paul starts out with the issues of what happened after we believed the gospel:

Romans 3:28-30

Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. [29] Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: [30] Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith.

This passage shows how the faith we have is apart from the things of the law. The Lord Jesus Christ accomplished everything for us of the cross. This is why it is said to be His faith which is the issue (Romans 4:5). Paul speaks about how Israel had a faith and we have a faith, which are clearly identified as being different. This is why it is important to rightly divide the Word of truth, as we need to be able to identify which one we are speaking of and making sure we are only dealing with the faith which related to us.

Paul speaks about the things related to this faith throughout his epistles. He also identifies what happens when someone is going against the faith which is identified in Romans through Philemon:

Romans 14:23

And he that doubteth is damned if he eat, because he eateth not of faith: for whatsoever is not of faith is sin.

The things which are not of faith are described as being sin. This is a different issue of sin than the transgression of the law, as the law was removed from having an impact on the members of the Body of Christ. It was nailed to the cross with the Lord Jesus Christ, so it does not have any impact on us. As a result, we do not face the penalty for this, which is death. We have been removed from the influence of this and have been given the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).

When an individual goes against the faith which is given to us in the epistles of Paul (Romans through Philemon) they are committing the sin which is laid out in Romans 14:23. This sin does not create an eternal separation from God, but rather has an impact on the rewards which we are going to receive. This sin builds wood, hay, and stubble at the Judgment Seat of Christ, influencing the reward which we should have received if we had functioned properly.

The Apostle Paul gives an example for us of individuals who were demonstrating the proper faith in their lives. We see this when we read what he wrote to the assembly in Thessalonica:

1 Thessalonians 1:2-3

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; [3] Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labour of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father;

1 Thessalonians 2:13

For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.

Paul speaks about how their demonstration of faith is called a work. This means their life did revolve around the faith which they were demonstrating. It was something they strived to do and it had an influence on other individuals. It was noticeable in the fact that Paul speaks about it was seen and hold them up as an example to other believers of how we should function.

As Paul speaks of this, he explains exactly what their faith was based on. It was based on their receiving the Word of God as something which was going to have an impact on them. They took the Word in, applied it to their lives, and it caused a change in them. This was able to be seen by Paul and other individuals who were around them. This change is what all members of the Body of Christ should be striving for.

While this is something which all members of the Body of Christ should be thankful for, there are other things which Paul lays out which he states we should have thankfulness for as well, which is the care for the saints:

Philemon 6

That the communication of thy faith may become effectual by the acknowledging of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.

As we are dealing with other individuals, the life we are living becomes evident to them. Our life should be based on the things of the Word of God, which is where our faith comes from (Romans 10:17). As we rightly divide the Word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), we understand the doctrine which has been given to us comes from the epistles written by the Apostle Paul (Romans through Philemon). This is the doctrine for today which builds us up and is demonstrated towards others.

This life should be something which is seen and has an impact on other people that we encounter. It is the Lord Jesus Christ living through us (Galatians 2:20) and this impact should lead to others wanting to know the gospel for today and the doctrine which they should be allowing to have the impact on how they live their lives.

Galatians 6:10

As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.

This is the impact which should be seen by others. Paul instructs us we are to be doing good unto all men. This means we are to be doing good things to everyone, whether we like them or not. Individuals watch what we do and if they are not seeing this, it will have an impact on what they think of us and the message which we are attempting to share with them.

This is especially true for the care for those who are members of the Body of Christ, which is the household of faith. Paul lays out exactly for us the instructions on how we know someone is of the household of faith:

1 Corinthians 12:12-13

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. [13] For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit.

Those who are part of the household of faith are the people who have put their trust in the gospel message for today (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), which has led to them being placed into the Body of Christ and sealed in this position (Ephesians 1:13-14). This is a guarantee we have.

Paul also identifies that we cannot separate someone from the Body:

1 Corinthians 12:14-26

For the body is not one member, but many. [15] If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? [16] And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? [17] If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? [18] But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. [19] And if they were all one member, where were the body? [20] But now are they many members, yet but one body. [21] And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. [22] Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: [23] And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. [24] For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: [25] That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. [26] And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.

There are a few things which are clearly laid out in this passage. First, we see that while every member of the Body of Christ has a different role, we are all considered necessary. In order for the Body to function properly, all members are needed. Somebody can't try to take over the role of someone else or even try to declare the person is no longer needed in the Body.

This goes all the way up to the Head of the Body. We know this is a term used to describe the Lord Jesus Christ. He cannot say to the foot (the lowest part of the Body) "I have no need of you" in order to get rid of it. If He can't do it, how do we think we can do this?

Individuals in the Body of Christ try to separate themselves from certain members for all sorts of reasons. By doing this, they are going contrary to the Word of God, as we have seen in the passage above.

A common objection is given related to doctrinal issues. Paul gives a clear teaching on this, which is often ignored by individuals:

Titus 3:9-11

But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain. [10] A man that is an heretick after the first and second admonition reject; [11] Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself.

The way many people take this is to stop associating with someone as soon as they hear they are teaching something different. There are usually no conversations with the individual and certainly no admonitions which are given. The quick fix is to just cut the person off.

The admonitions do need to be given with enough time for the person to actually be looking at the issue. In the span of one conversation, there should not be the two admonitions and rejection happening. The Body needs each other and we need to follow the clear teachings of Scripture.

For those who think this might be a little soft on error, it is the Word of God which is giving these instructions. As believers, we need to make sure we are clearly following what we are instructed to do by our pattern, the Apostle Paul.

Since we know the members of the Body of Christ are the individuals we need to be around and are to be thankful for them, we should be demonstrating this in all of our interactions with the Body. This starts with the way we greet each other:

Titus 3:15

All that are with me salute thee. Greet them that love us in the faith. Grace be with you all. Amen.

1 Thessalonians 5:26

Greet all the brethren with an holy kiss.

The members of the Body of Christ should have joy when seeing each other. This should be evident in the manner in which we greet each other. The warmth of the greeting goes a long way towards individuals feeling comfortable with each other.

When Paul speaks of a kiss, he is not speaking of something romantic towards each member of the Body of Christ. The culture in Thessalonica was such that this was the way they greeted each other. In the United States we might use the term a big, hearty handshake. This is the main issue in what was being done.

Paul holds individuals up as the example on how to function in this manner:

1 Corinthians 16:15

I beseech you, brethren, (ye know the house of Stephanas, that it is the firstfruits of Achaia, and that they have addicted themselves to the ministry of the saints,) [16] That ye submit yourselves unto such, and to every one that helpeth with us, and laboureth.

The household of Stephanas is the example on how to demonstrate this care. Their lives revolved around the care of the saints, which is why it is identified as an addiction. Anyone that has ever seen someone go through an addiction has seen how everything in their life revolves around whatever that is. In this example, it is the care of the saints, which is what Paul is holding up and is truly thankful for.

As the members of the Body of Christ we should function in the way that Paul's epistles instruct us to. This is how we are pleasing to God and we can truly be thankful for what has been accomplished for us.