What Is the Power of Thanksgiving?

Gratitude changes our attitudes and our actions. It changes how we live. This is the power of living a life of thanks; of gratitude for our blessings, whether those blessings are great or small. This is the power of Thanksgiving.

Grandchildren hugging their grandma at Thanksgiving

As a man thinks in his heart, so is he (Proverbs 23:7).

We have all seen them. The list is endless. Our bookstores — even the online bookstores — are overrun with them. Of course, we are talking about self-help books. The Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale — perhaps the most famous. Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill; The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey — are among other very well-known ones.

So many of the self-help books have one theme in common — as we think, as we are in our hearts, has a major impact on our lives. So often — too often — we drift through life unaware of the inner forces and choices that keep us held in frustration, disappointment, dissatisfaction, and weariness.

It is called the law of attraction. Its underlying premise is that thoughts make a person — noble thoughts make a noble person; thankful thoughts make a thankful person. Our thoughts often help determine our reality. Our attitudes; our happiness; our lives; our existence; and yes, even our faith is impacted by how we think and how we feel.

This is the power of living a life of thanks; of gratitude for our blessings, whether those blessings are great or small. This is the power of Thanksgiving.

The Curse of Wanting More

We live in a time where we are inevitably enticed — tempted — to want more and more, and better and better. More money, more stuff. A bigger and better house, a car. More success at work.

We want, or think we need, the next greatest phone, TV, tablet — you name it. Better vacations. Better clothes. The trappings of an indulgent lifestyle — drawn to things of the world. More, more, more.

Adam and Eve experienced the curse of more in the Garden.

“For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” So, when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her (Genesis 3:5-6).

The serpent had caused them to be less than satisfied with what God had given them. Don’t we fall prey to the same temptations?

For everything in the world — the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life — comes not from the Father but from the world (1 John 2:16).

In our lives, the “curse of more” is self-compounding. It eats at our satisfaction with what we have. It eats at our time. It creates life demands, struggles, and worries that give more room to dissatisfaction and defeat than to a heart of thanks.

We forget, in the midst of our busyness and pressures, to just pause and be thankful for all that God has done and will continue to do. Soon enough — we expect more from God.

It becomes a sacrifice to offer praise and thanks. We may not feel like it; we may feel we just don’t have the time; or we are struggling — financially, physically, emotionally. We’re weary. We feel like God has let us down.

We think he seems distant — as if he has moved away from us or doesn’t care about our troubles. Rather than prayers of gratitude, we find ourselves continually asking for more. “Oh Lord, if you could please just let me win the lottery.” Painful life blows and losses damage us far more deeply.

What we don’t realize is the damage has been caused by our own choices.

To help you in thanking God, we created a 30 Days of Gratitude Prayer Guide HERE. Download and print this guide to keep with you as a reminder of God's love and promises.

The Blessing of Giving Thanks

Giving thanks is scriptural, which can be seen with Noah and his family. Once the earth was dry after the flood, they were finally able to leave the ark.

Noah’s first act was to build an altar to give thanks and worship God (Genesis 8:18-20). And God was so pleased with the aroma of Noah’s prayers rising up to him, he swore to never again flood the earth. The rainbow signifies that promise (Genesis 9:13).

Thanksgiving is an important, even critical, part of the Christian life. It is the cornerstone to a life of prayer. Paul gave instruction to the church in Philippi about thanksgiving and prayer:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).

The scriptures are filled with prayers of thanksgiving:

I will give thanks to you, Lord with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds (Psalm 9:1).

To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you… (Daniel 2:23, ESV).

… speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord,  always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ (Ephesians 5:19).

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name (Psalm 100:4).

Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful (Colossians 4:2).

In his teachings, Jesus makes it clear, thanksgiving is a way we show love and devotion to Almighty God. One day he witnessed this gratitude when he healed a group of 10 lepers.

Luke writes: “And as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him — and he was a Samaritan” (Luke 17:14-16).

The one who returned to give thanks was a Samaritan — not a Jew. Samaritans were hated by the Jews, driving home Jesus’ point. Jesus made note of his humility in thanksgiving, but also of the lack of thanks on the part of the Jews:

Then Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well” (Luke 17:17-19). “Your faith has made you well.” The Samaritan’s act of giving thanks and praise had made him well.

May it be so with us. In our lives, we are all like the lepers of the time. May we be like this one leper who was healed and then came back to give thanks.

Thanksgiving Is a Choice

It’s contagious. We have so much to be grateful for. Each and every day.

  • I am grateful for Jesus Christ and his sacrifice for me — for us all; I am thankful the Father has drawn me to him, and for his Holy Spirit being with me.
  • I am grateful for my wife — the love of my life for nearly 40 years; I am grateful for my children, my family, and my loved ones.
  • I am grateful for my health, even on days I feel almost 70 (which I am.); I am grateful for a roof over my head and food on my table.
  • I am grateful for our financial situation — we have enough to not be poor, but not so much we forget how much we need the Lord.

Beyond giving God the glory and praise to which he is rightfully due, one of the greatest things about thankfulness is that it is a choice. We can choose to be grateful. And the more we choose it, the easier it gets. The more we profess our gratitude for our blessings, the more we notice things to be grateful for.

Gratitude changes our attitudes and our actions. It changes how we live. And others notice — and it is contagious. In faith, let us thank God in advance for all he has done and all he is going to do in the days, weeks, months, and years to come — because there is tremendous power in Thanksgiving!

For further reading:

Can the Foundations of Thanksgiving Be Found in the Bible?

Is Thanksgiving Truly a Christian Holiday?

What Happened on the First Thanksgiving?

What Is the History of Thanksgiving?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Choreograph


SWN authorGreg Grandchamp is the author of In Pursuit of Truth, A Journey Begins – an easy-to-read, conversational-toned search that answers to most common questions about Jesus Christ. Was he real? Who did he claim to be? What did he teach? Grandchamp offers perspective as an everyday guy on the very same journey as his readers and listeners – as a disciple of Christ Jesus, and learning life's lessons along the way.