6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
New King James Version (NKJV)
I am always amazed as I read God’s Word how the level of understanding during one season of life becomes enlarged by the Holy Spirit in another season. Suddenly new revelation lights the path more clearly.
During recent stressful events in my life, the Lord reminded me about Philippians 4:6. As I reread this passage the Holy Spirit gave me a new understanding and stabilized my heart with His peace.
I know if I take the time to share this new insight it will be better defined within me. This definitely isn’t the whole picture about prayer by any means. It is a simple but important lesson I learned in the life school of prayer. But first, I have to backtrack. Years ago, I looked at prayer as an itemized check list. I relied on a list of prayer concerns, and prayed through those lists faithfully. Prayer was stylistic and the approach to God was ritualistic. I grew up learning about the ACTS way to pray. This formula encouraged a diversity of purpose when praying to God, making sure that focus wasn’t just on petitioning or supplication, but also covering all the other areas as well. Indeed, we do need to include worship, confession, thanksgiving and petition in prayers on a regular basis. This is the formula:
- A = adoration
- C= confession
- T= thanksgiving
- S= supplication
Over time, as my needs became greater and formulas failed to work, I was pressed to seek the Lord more diligently through prayer. He encouraged me to speak to Him with spontaneity and honesty. I learned to run to Him as soon as I realized I’d chosen the wrong way, seeking His forgiveness and mercy; I began depending on Him when I had a need; He helped me appreciate being still before Him as I enjoyed His presence; the encounters with Him led me to rejoice with praise, and to worship Him for who He is and what He does. He showed me how to reach past myself with intercessory prayer for His Kingdom, His glory and for others. New lessons about learning to hear Him are ever enlightening my heart. Yet, I was still missing an important concept about effectual prayer.
Each new difficulty in life presents opportunity for growth in the knowledge of our Father’s heart and in talking with Him in prayer. The recent situations I faced were no exception. As He led me to Philippians 4:6 several months ago, two words from that verse realigned my prayers over the issues I was facing. Actually it was only one word, the word “with“.
Effective praying is not just telling God our needs and then remembering to be thankful. Giving thanks and petitioning are entwined in a single focus on God. Petition and thanksgiving come together as need meets assurance. Petitions are made… with thanksgiving, as the heart seeks comfort from a faithful, loving Father. Jesus set the example as He often expressed thanksgiving in His own prayers to the Father.
Giving thanks, while seeking God’s help through petitions, is an act of worship. If I am asking my Father for something with a heart of thanksgiving, I am acknowledging that He will hear my prayers, will do what is best for me and will always respond with a loving redemptive plan. If my petitions are not joined with thanksgiving, I am not allowing my heart to expect the best from God. The “if’s , maybe’s, could you’s, and sure am hoping’s” become more evident in petitions that don’t flow with thanksgiving. To be thankful while petitioning is also an act of faith and trust in the goodness of God. Doubt and disbelief are eliminated when thanksgiving and petitions are offered together.
There are dark times when petitioning is done with anguish and tears, and it just doesn’t feel like a time to be thankful. You can’t even pretend to be thankful. I have experienced those times. It took the power of the Holy Spirit working in me to muster a simple “thank you Father for your goodness, even in this stressful situation” when recent unforeseen events encroached upon my life. On a deeper level I’ve heard and read testimonies of Christians who have lost loved ones or suffered unbearable hardship and pain, but were able to lift thanksgiving/worship in anticipation of God’s goodness, comfort and blessings… yet to be revealed. Despite those painful times, the Holy Spirit is able to lift our hearts with thanksgiving. The key is faith in God’s goodness and, asking to be thankful, as we realize in times of desperation we sometimes aren’t able to offer thanksgiving. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, thanksgiving begins to rise from our hearts and our focus is lifted up to our Faithful Father.
It pleases the Lord for us to come to Him with confidence in His love. I will never fully understand why the Lord does what He does or how He answers my prayers. But I can always be assured His love will be the motive behind His every plan and action.
Ephesians 5:20 Amplified Bible (AMP) 20 At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.
1 Thessalonians 5:18 New International Version (NIV) 18 give thanks in all circumstances;for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 American Standard Version (ASV)16 Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God our Father who loved us and gave us eternal comfort and good hope through grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish them in every good work and word.
Colossians 1:11-12 Amplified Bible (AMP)11 [We pray] that you may be invigorated and strengthened with all power according to the might of His glory, [to exercise] every kind of endurance and patience (perseverance and forbearance) with joy,12 Giving thanks to the Father, Who has qualified and made us fit to share the portion which is the inheritance of the saints (God’s holy people) in the Light.
Connecting, with love