“Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God that passes all understanding will guard your heart and your mind in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7
We find various forms of “do not be anxious” sprinkled throughout the Bible. Jesus devoted a great deal of the Sermon on the Mount to the crippling effects of anxiety and His solution to it (Matt. 6:25-34). In the passage for today’s Gracewaves, Paul again reminded us to “be anxious for nothing,” and he provided an important insight into neutralizing anxiety.
First, let’s focus on “let your requests be made known to God” (4:6). You need to embrace this call to pray about everything. God invites you to bring your burdens to Him. He is not wearied by them. He will not chide you for them. He understands them. One of the prophecies concerning Jesus was the He would be a “man of sorrows, acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Because of what Jesus faced here on earth, God knows what you are facing each day. He is not surprised or disappointed by prayers about your burdens. Don’t hesitate or worry if your request is appropriate. Let it be known to God. He will sort it out.
Once God has heard your request in prayer He begins to work that request into the great equation of His providence. Please understand, God’s willingness to give you good things does not mean He will give you everything you want. God loves us too much to grant us the power to get anything we want. That kind of power would corrupt every last one of us. Only God can handle omnipotence. However, I can assure you I have never asked for anything I wanted and not received what I needed. So go ahead and let your request be known, but trust God for the form of answer.
Second, we find an overlooked gem in the scripture. We are to pray and ask “with thanksgiving.” This neglected quality of a rich life of prayer is infinitely important. Thanksgiving means we are surveying our lives to see what God has done already. As we review His multiple blessings and express gratitude for them, we realize anxiety about life is not our sole experience. Loss screams. Blessings sing. You can be so overwhelmed by the screeching losses that you begin to believe that loss defines you. That is never true.
Letting your requests be made known to God with thanksgiving provides a very important spiritual balance in your life. You begin to realize God has taken care of you each day. He has provided resources you would never imagine. You have survived and grown through experiences you thought would have crippled you forever. Then you rediscover a sublime truth: as God has acted in the past, He will act in the present and the future. God has a great track record. Trust Him with today and tomorrow.
I often come to God with specific requests. He wants us to be involved in His providence in specific ways, so discerning and praying for specific requests leads me more deeply into His heart and purpose. But I have also prayed often with no requests whatsoever. I may thank God for being faithful to me, and that I trust Him to give whatever He desires. God knows so much better what brings me joy.
So develop the habit of praying with thanksgiving. When you do, prayer will have its full effect. Like all spiritual disciplines it will bring you peace. As Paul wrote, “the peace of God that passes all human understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” (4:7). Let His peace guard your heart. Nothing will get by. Nothing will take away your peace.
Dr. Terry Ellis
April 4, 2011