When we find ourselves in a difficult situation or concerned about someone we love, I guess it’s an automatic reaction to ‘pray’, to talk to God. Now whether it’s a short sharp ‘HELP’ kind of prayer, a long deep intercessory prayer, or anything in between, we are often motivated by the circumstances that we see before us. Quite often, if we are honest, our praying is driven by our worries and concerns.
Our prayers are fuelled by our need for God’s help and intervention in the situation because we don’t have the answers, or the wherewithall to change things for the better. How often do we hear people say, “Well, all we can do is pray”. No wonder therefore that prayer is often linked to those times of ‘feeling anxious’.
Paul in his letter to the Philippian church, gets that. He writes to them, ‘Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts, and your minds in Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 4:6,7.
Paul knows, probably from first hand experience, that being anxious and prayer often go together, and they can often stay together as, in our minds, we turn the problem over as we pray. If we are not careful we are actually meditating on the issues, filling our minds with them, hoping that God is listening in as we chew it all over.
Hopefully we might hit upon the answer so that we can tell God what we would like Him to do, or offer Him some advice on the best way to tackle it. Unfortunately, we often can’t see or don’t have the faith for what needs to happen, and so our rumination feeds our fears and our prayer becomes the proverbial ‘worrying on our knees’.
I love the phrase that Paul uses here ‘with thanksgiving present your requests to God’, or literally in the Greek ‘with thanksgivings the requests of you let be made known to God.’ The implication is clear. I don’t have to help God to come up with an answer. I don’t even have to help Him by explaining in detail how bad it all is. I can just ‘present my requests to Him’, and if I don’t even know what to ‘request’ I can pray in tongues, or I can just say, “Lord my request is that your Kingdom comes in this situation for your glory”. That’s a prayer that will always be answered.
So why does Paul encourage us to ‘make our requests ‘with thanksgiving’? I think for two main reasons. Firstly it expresses my trusting relationship with Him, my Good, Good, Father. It expresses that I’m confident that He is hearing me, cares about me, and is constantly working on my behalf, for my good and His glory. I don’t need to persuade Him to be involved.
Without wanting to trivialise prayer, may be this illustration helps. When I give a waiter or waitress my food order, I usually say “thank you” with a smile, because I know that they have heard what I want, have noted it down and that they will be bringing it to me in due course. Thanking God as I ‘present my requests’ says to Him, “I love you Father and I know you love me, and You have heard my request. I am now trusting you for your answer”
The second reason for ‘presenting our request with thanksgiving, is for our ‘peace of mind and heart’. We may well have been led by the Spirit as we ‘presented our request to God’, but what about our wayward heart and mind. We recently heard someone teaching on prayer say that ‘faith’ can be expressed in the moment of prayer but what happens in the next twenty four hours in our hearts and minds is important if we are to stay in faith.
Thanksgiving can help to prevent our thoughts or our feelings from slipping back into anxiety. Paul says that the peace of God, which transcends all understanding will ‘stand guard’ over our thoughts and feelings. Thanking God that He has got my request in His heart, every time that issue comes back to mind, enables God’s peace to flow into my heart and mind, preventing or rebuffing the invasion of any doubts and unbelief.
What a wonderful gift thanksgiving is!!