But when Daniel learned that the law had been signed, he went home and knelt down as usual in his upstairs room, with its windows open toward Jerusalem. He prayed three times a day, just as he had always done, giving thanks to his God. Then the officials went together to Daniel’s house and found him praying and asking for God’s help. [Daniel 6:10-11 (NLT)]
An irrevocable law had just been signed that prohibited praying to anyone but King Darius, so what did the devout Daniel do? Fully aware that he would be thrown into a den of lions for doing so, Daniel went home and prayed to God. He first said a prayer of thanks before pleading for God’s help in his dire situation. He truly understood that thanking God in all situations should be our first priority.
Back in the 1630s, a Lutheran minister named Martin Rinckart also understood the importance of thanking God, even in dreadful circumstances. It was the midst of the Thirty Years’ War and all of Europe was in turmoil. Poverty, famine and disease reigned; mercenary soldiers committed atrocities, looted, and extorted tribute; and life seemed hopeless, especially in the walled city of Eilenburg where Rinckart lived. Refugees had overcrowded the city, people were starving, the city was surrounded by enemy soldiers, and then typhus, dysentery, scurvy and the plague took control and devastated the population. Rinkart, as the last living pastor in town, had to perform as many as fifty funerals a day (over 4,400 in all). During this horrific time, one of the darkest in Europe’s history, Rinckart penned the beautiful joy-filled and trusting words of that well-known Thanksgiving hymn, “Now Thank We All Our God.” Like Daniel, Rinckart offered thanks to God in the most difficult of circumstances.
I recently saw a cartoon in which the heavy-set husband, after looking down at his skimpy plate of dieter’s salad, looked up at his wife and said, “You better say grace this time. If I do it, God will know I’m lying.” Unlike Daniel and Martin Rinckart, most of us, like the man in the comic strip, are often blind to the blessings of life and deficient in our thanks to God for those blessings, however great or small. Today, as we celebrate our national day of thanks, let us remember that every day should be a day of thanks giving…even if, instead of sweet potatoes, stuffing, turkey, and pumpkin pie, our plates have only lettuce, carrots and celery!
Now thank we all our God, with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done, in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers’ arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.
O may this bounteous God through all our life be near us,
with ever joyful hearts and blessed peace to cheer us;
and keep us still in grace, and guide us when perplexed;
and free us from all ills, in this world and the next.
All praise and thanks to God the Father now be given;
the Son, and him who reigns with them in highest heaven;
the one eternal God, whom earth and heaven adore;
for thus it was, is now, and shall be evermore.
[Now Thank We All Our God (Martin Rinckart)]
Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. [1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NLT)]
I will praise the Lord at all times. I will constantly speak his praises. [Psalm 31:1 (NLT)]