Whether we’ve been praying for five minutes or fifty years

Paul’s wisdom and instruction in Philippians 4:6 endures: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Note his logic. He first says to not be anxious about anything. That’s something to shoot for, and it is certainly a work-in-progress for many of us (myself included).

He continues by making a contrast. We should present our requests and petitions to God in every situation. Not some situations, but all situations. There was a time when I didn’t think that was practical. But then I realized that if I simply whispered to God in prayer whenever a problem or concern came into my head—whether I was at the grocery story, baseball diamond or walking the dog—it was actually possible.

But note what Paul also says. He says to be thankful in the process. When we’re in a tight spot or stressed out about something, thankfulness isn’t often top of mind. Nevertheless, we are instructed to be thankful. Even in the midst of our worries and needs, God is giving us guidance in the Bible; he is providing food and shelter; he is providing opportunities to serve him and bless others; he is giving fresh air and the sound of birds; he is providing people to help; he has given us eternal hope in Jesus. Shall I go on?

When you’re praying for God to act, give thanks for how he has already acted. These reminders about what he has done (past tense) remind you about what he is doing (present tense) and about what he will do (future tense).

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

This biblical wisdom holds whether we’ve been praying for five minutes or fifty years.

Even when you’re hurting or in desperate need, go to God not only with open hands but with a thankful heart. 

Gratitude chokes bitterness and resuscitates an awareness that God is good.


Notes:

–Bible quotes are from the NIV.

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