Yesterday on the youth ministry side of the blog, we looked at St. Paul’s “rubric” of three different types of prayers we can speak over our students. Today, we’ll take a closer look at prayers of thanksgiving.
Those of us in ministry can be all too familiar with discouragement. While we objectively know that God is faithful and always at work, it can be challenging to embrace this truth when we are sowing seeds that yield little tangible fruit.
Prayers of thanksgiving serve as the perfect anecdote to discouragement. In Philippians, Paul encourages us to not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God (4:6). This posture of thanksgiving is exactly how we want to begin our call to be Rooted in Prayer for our students.
When we come before God in thanksgiving and acknowledge all the ways He has been faithful to us, our hearts and minds are re-oriented to see Him at work—even when our ministry fields seem to be barren. A thankful heart humbles us, reminding us there is nothing we possess that we have not received as a gracious and undeserved gift from the Lord (1stCorinthians 4:7).
I recently had a meeting with a student that deeply discouraged me. She said she didn’t feel the Lord at work in her life, and she was in an evident state of physical and mental exhaustion. Not only that, but she clearly had no interest in engaging in a spiritual conversation; she was focused instead on maneuvering our time back to the latest high school drama.
I was totally at a loss for how to respond. As I silently pleaded with the Lord for help, I decided to ask if she wanted to make a list of things we were thankful for—simply because I had no idea what else to do. I admitted I too had had a hard week and it would be good for me to take a moment to think about how the Lord had been good to me. She agreed, and our list ranged from “our beds” to “Chapstick” to “forgiveness.” This exercise, born out of sheer desperation, turned a seemingly hopeless meeting into a somewhat redemptive one.
As we are Rooted in Prayer this week, may the Lord grant us thankful hearts and open eyes to see Him at work, just as he did with this student and I. May we use this week to take the time in the car ride home after a discouraging youth group or before we open our email on a busy day to ask the Lord to show us evidence of His faithfulness, drawing us to our knees in humble gratitude.
When I am discouraged that only two students showed up for small group, I can thank Him that the smaller crowd allowed us to have more intimate conversation. When I am frustrated with a misbehaving student, I can thank Him for the partnership I have with their parent who continues to faithfully disciple in the face of their child’s disobedience. When I feel like no one is engaged in worship at youth group, I can thank Him that we live in a country where we can freely gather in worship without the threat of persecution.
I want to make clear, however, that my moments of thanksgiving are often in retrospect! In my sin, my default is discouragement, frustration, and cynicism. I would imagine the same is true of you. Yet, the Holy Spirit can powerfully direct our minds to the Lord’s faithfulness and transform our hard hearts into ones of gratitude.
Lord, thank you for the student who comes to Bible Study every week after she gets off a long night of work. Thank you for the verse that you brought to mind in a one-on-one meeting. Thank you for the student who surprised me by saying she wanted to read the Bible in a year. Thank you for the Taylor Swift dance party we had on our Fall Retreat. Thank you for the parent who faithfully brings Chick-Fil-A breakfast to Bible Study every week. Above all, Lord, thank you for the gift of your son, the One from whom all blessings flow.
Head over to Rooted Parent today as we pray together as a community, a word of thanksgiving for our students.