Mark Alan Williams
The Subtle But Significant Difference Between Thanksgiving And Praise
Updated: Mar 26, 2019
Do you know the difference?
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For years I didn’t understand the difference between thanksgiving and praise. I used both words but didn’t understand the distinctives. You might not think this is a big deal, but it is. Both are vital, but often praise is overlooked. I observe this often when around other Christians as they pray.
Photo by Guillaume de Germain on Unsplash
The Bible repeatedly commands Christians to be thankful: “In everything give thanks, for this is God’s will for you…” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). It also repeatedly tells us to praise God: “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” (Psalm 150:6)
Yet many Christians have never thought about the difference between the two.
Here is my brief explanation of the subtle (but important) differences between thanksgiving and praise:
1. Thanksgiving focuses on benefits bestowed to us.
When we thank someone, it’s because we have something we appreciate which has been a blessing for us. We have benefited and we want to let others know we appreciate it. We might be thankful for a gift, a compliment, a favor, etc.
So where is the focus? Whatever we are thankful for, we are grateful because of a blessing brought to US. The focus is on US.
As mentioned previously, thanksgiving is a command of God, and thus it’s vitally important. I wrote an article about thanking God titled; Why Thanking Prayers are so Important.
We must thank God for his blessings to us, we should also thank people who bless us. I try to thank my wife Carolyn often, although I could certainly do better. When I thank her, it’s because of something she has done to bless me, help me, or benefit me.
Most everyone likes to be thanked—it’s a small recognition of what you’ve done to bless others.
2. Praise focuses on the character of God and our love for Him.
While thanksgiving focuses on blessings bestowed on us, praise focuses on God. We praise Him for His character, His attributes and His abilities.
I’ve often heard people say they’re praising God, but in fact, they are thanking Him.
It’s one thing for me to thank Carolyn for doing the dishes. But it’s another thing for me to praise her for her character, her attributes, her abilities.
Of the two, thanksgiving and praise, I think most people prefer to receive praise for who they are, as opposed to thanksgiving for what they have done. Apparently, it’s the same way for God.
“Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise.” (Psalm 100:4)
In this verse we have a reference of the temple in Jerusalem. There were gates that led into the temple compound. But entering the gates meant still being outside the most sacred places. To enter the inner courts was to come closer and closer to the Holy of Holies.
Thanksgiving allows us to begin to become close to God. Praise brings us even closer.
Here’s a summary of similarities and differences between thanksgiving and praise:
As a Barnabas Partner, I receive a weekly prayer email from Jim West, Barnabas San Diego Co-Managing Partner and Co-Founder. I admire both Jim’s spirit of thanksgiving and praise. For example, here is part of Jim’s prayer email I received just today:
Eternal and Sovereign God, You are the Lord of life and its Author. We come full of thanks and praise for Your faithfulness, mercy, truth and grace. You do mighty works, such as parting the Red Sea for millions to see! Also you do quiet miracles, such as a healing that only two or three may witness, or maybe even one strangely warmed heart that suddenly desires to participate in Your ministries. The glory is Yours!
I say “Amen!”
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Additional resources about related subjects on this site:
Five Simple Steps to Conquer Complaining and Find Happiness (no audio blog)
Quote card: It’s only with gratitude that life becomes rich.
Quote card: This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
What Does God Owe Me?How to Know God’s Will for You Right Now
Quote card: Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love…
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