First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
If you were asked right now to pray for your church or to pray for another church or Christian that you know, what would be your opening sentence? What would you start with?
If you are like most Christians I hear pray for churches and for Christians you would first ask for something for them. You would go “God, please help Brother X in ….”, or “Lord, send revival to our church, send your Spirit…”
Now I hope that most of you reading this are enough of a faith bunch never to ask God for something you already have (e.g. health, joy, the Holy Spirit) and I reckon most of you are sensible enough not to ask God for something that He told you to do (“give us 100 converts, Lord” when we don’t witness, evangelise or follow up!), but I still reckon most faith Christians start their prayer times for others with asking.
Paul did not. Paul said this:
First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all
I have a sermon on thanksgiving on my website which I think everyone should listen to because I think thanksgiving is so crucial to a successful faith life. But look at this: before asking God for anything for the Romans, Paul thanked God for them.
I dare you for everyone you pray for this week to thank God for them first and spend more time thanking God for them than asking for stuff for them. I bet they end up with more stuff than if you had just asked for stuff for them.
And why did Paul thank God for them?
that [their] faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.
You might say that the people you are praying for do not have their faith spoken of throughout the world, but why not thank God for something that they do have and then pray for their faith to be spoken of throughout the whole world.
If you cannot find something to thank God for with someone or with a church, you have a problem.
D L Moody made it his business to thank everyone he met or compliment them for some reason. He was determined to see and highlight and enhance the good in people.
One evening he was on a train and a smelly, dirty, drunk was tripping over himself moving from carriage to carriage putting a bottle of whiskey under everyone’s noses and telling them to drink it. When they refused, he yelled at them for not taking it.
People started watching Moody to see if he could find good in this man. When the man pushed the bottle of whiskey in Moody’s face and snarled at him to drink it, Moody said to him gently:
You must be such a generous hearted man, you clearly love whiskey and you clearly have little else, but you are so willing to share it, that is an admirable thing.
The man stopped shouting, sat down and spent the rest of the journey listening to Moody share the gospel.
If you can thank someone in a prayer or in a personal way, you will succeed with that person in a way that asking and telling never will.
If there is someone you are struggling with, or someone you love and are praying for, or if you are just generally praying for your church:
First of all, give thanks.