November. The month is full of images of fall, turkeys, families, overflowing tables … and giving thanks. Of course, it’s Thanksgiving! But for so many, giving thanks is just another part of the whole feel-good image tied to the four-day weekend in November.

We all express thanks in some form on the fourth Thursday in November. Even unchurched and nonreligious people can talk comfortably about giving thanks. But it begs the question: who are you giving thanks to?

I am not criticizing the gratitude of others; I’m thankful they’re thankful! But I wish people would give serious consideration as to whom they are expressing thanks. Go ahead and thank your parents for raising you; thank your wife for the ways she puts up with your loud chewing; and thank your neighbor for not running his leaf blower at 7:000 a.m. on Saturdays.

But when it comes to things like your health, who do you thank? Who do you thank for your family? Or the hundreds of other things that are just there without any effort on your part. Seriously. Who do you thank?

For the follower of Christ, that answer is easy. We look to God! But I want you to do something a little different this Thanksgiving. Don’t just thank God; praise Him.

The simplest distinction between praise and thanksgiving is this:

  • We praise God for who He is.
  • We thank God for what He does.

That’s a fair distinction, but I’ve found I cannot genuinely do one without engaging in the other. Praise and thanksgiving are inseparable.

“Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise. Give thanks to him and bless his name” (Ps. 100:4).

Praise gets me centered on God. Without that, thanksgiving easily devolves into simply a good feeling about all I’ve got. The emphasis, then, is placed on me. Praise is needful in times of thanksgiving to keep me focused on the One to whom I am thankful.

When I consider the majesty of who He is—the awe-inspiring, mighty, and sovereign God full of infinite love and grace—I am equally drawn to reflect on all the ways He has displayed His power, love, and grace to me. Praise and thanks go hand in hand.

“For you have made me rejoice, Lord, by what you have done; I will shout for joy because of the works of your hands” (Ps. 92:4).

Whatever your plans are this Thanksgiving, include some intentional time of praise to God. Read aloud some psalms like Psalm 34, 92, 95, and one of my favorites, Psalm 103. Your sense of thanksgiving will be enhanced as you reflect and glory in the wonder and majesty of God.

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This post supports the study “Give Thanks to God” in Bible Studies for Life and YOU.

Join Lynn Pryor and Chris Johnson as they discuss this topic.