A few thoughts recently on “thankfulness” within the context of prayer:
don’t cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers, – Ephesians 1:16 (WEB)
Paul here is writing here about being thankful that he is surrounded [in some sense] by fellow partners in Jesus Christ, which he brings up in his prayers. We see that this is what Paul is talking about from the previous verse:
For this cause I also, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which is among you, and the love which you have toward all the saints, – Ephesians 1:15 (WEB)
I am not an expert on Greek grammar, so I cannot definitively say what the beginning of verse 15 “For this cause” is referring to. However, I suspect that at least some of what is in Paul’s mind here is what comes before verse 15, rather than what comes just after this phrase in verse 15. What that means is that if we look before this verse in the letter to the Ephesians, we will see many more reasons for this thankfulness:
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and without defect before him in love, having predestined us for adoption as children through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his desire, to the praise of the glory of his grace, by which he freely gave us favor in the Beloved, in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in him to an administration of the fullness of the times, to sum up all things in Christ, the things in the heavens and the things on the earth, in him. We were also assigned an inheritance in him, having been foreordained according to the purpose of him who does all things after the counsel of his will, to the end that we should be to the praise of his glory, we who had before hoped in Christ. In him you also, having heard the word of the truth, the Good News of your salvation—in whom, having also believed, you were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is a pledge of our inheritance, to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:3-14 (WEB)
This gives numerous underlying reasons behind the immediate reasons for Paul’s thankfulness in prayer. It is these things that have ultimately led Paul to have fellow partners with faith and love in Jesus Christ.
Thankfulness – being able to rejoice with gratitude in good things – is an important part of prayer and spiritual warfare:
Rejoice in the Lord always! Again I will say, “Rejoice!” Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. In nothing be anxious, but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are honorable, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report: if there is any virtue and if there is any praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:4-8 (WEB)
So how much do you think on (and “thank on”) these things?
This is important in evangelism toward those who do not know Jesus, in a world that is quite devoid of hope. If others are able to see your hope through your happy demeanor (especially in the face of struggles), that gives opportunity for asking questions and conversations that can lead to opportunities for you to answer:
not rendering evil for evil, or insult for insult; but instead blessing, knowing that you were called to this…Now who will harm you if you become imitators of that which is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “Don’t fear what they fear, neither be troubled.” But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts. Always be ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, with humility and fear, – 1 Peter 3:9-15 (WEB)