“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6)
Prayer is meant to put us in the place where we turn our eyes from what surrounds us and troubles us, to fixing our eyes on the One Who is our Father.
The apostle is telling us that this is our cure for anxiety. We do not have to rely on our own strength or resources – we are turning our attention to the One Who is our ultimate strength and Who has unlimited resources.
Our inadequacy becomes swallowed up in the all-sufficiency of God.
Prayer is the eye-turner. Prayer is the faith-response to the knowledge that we are insufficient to face our troubles and fears. Prayer, at its roots, is getting an eye-full of God – and openly placing our trust in His infinite and compassionate care.
So we are commanded to NOT be anxious about anything – because nothing is bigger than God. Notice, the command is not just to stop being anxious. The command is to give ourselves a new plan of action… to focus our thoughts and attention on the One responsible for our every care.
“In everything (whatever is turning our attention away from God and His all-sufficiency) by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
The apostle gives us three things to keep in mind as we turn our thoughts and attention to God, to seek His help in our times of need.
“By prayer” = The word for prayer (in the New Testament) literally means “an exchange of wishes.” This is interesting because most of us, when we think about prayer and praying, think in terms of talking to God. But this is not true prayer. True prayer is a conversation between two people. Between us and the Most High. We talk, He listens. AND He talks, and we listen. Most of us are pretty adept at the talking part… but really struggle with the listening part. Perhaps that is why Jesus tells us to “go into our inner room and shut the door.” (Mt. 6:6) We are literally shutting out all distractions and barring all interruptions. The principle is not the place of prayer, but the focus of prayer – removing all encumbrances so when God speaks we can actually hear what He has to say.
“and supplication” = The word used here carries the concept of “hear-felt petition, arising out of a deep, personal need.” The idea is one of desperation – of being so overcome by our need that we are impassioned in our pleas. The picture of “supplication” is that of a starving beggar crying out for food. It is a passion that is driven by hunger, in the presence of one who can satisfy that hunger.
If you study people who are great prayer warriors, they all talk about the fact that our hearts must become engaged to the point of pleading with God. Jesus Himself gave us this lesson when He spoke of the widow and the unrighteous judge (Lk. 18:1-8!). Sometimes, God is honestly seeking to know “how much do we really want it.” We can easily forget that one often neglected aspect of faith is that it is relentless. This is at the core of supplication.
“with thanksgiving” = the need to be ever-mindful of the goodness of God. We are His beloved children. He longs to give us good things. And just like any of us, He also yearns for those who receive from Him, to be truly thankful. The apostle is actually calling us to a lifestyle of thanksgiving in prayer. Of conversing about our case, of pleading our case – then thanking God for His goodness and faithfulness.
One practical application of this concept is: instead of merely asking God for things… thank Him, in advance, for doing those things that you are asking! It can revolutionize the way we pray – and place us in the proper place of gratitude for all that God does for us!
There is so much more to prayer than just talking to God and getting things from Him. Prayer is the real conversation between two real persons in real relationship together, living life together. When we see prayer for what it really is, we realize that prayer is an amazing lifeline between us and the God Who loves us.