The Forgotten Part of Prayer
It’s no surprise that the Apostle Paul talks about prayer a lot. Living on the road, sharing the gospel, or being shipwrecked, beaten, or jailed are things that would drive anyone to pray. In his books in the New Testament Paul mentions prayer (prayers, prayer reports, prayer requests, exhortations to pray), 41 times. One of those times you might be familiar with in Philippians instructs us to pray, but also reminds us about the most forgotten part of prayer, and it’s benefits. Philippians 4:6-7 is a pretty well known passage, and for good reason.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil 4:6-7
Many, many sermons have been preached on these verses. They are full of deep theological truths that have brought comfort and peace to multitudes. But the little phrase tucked in the middle of verse 6 caught my eye the last time I read it.
We often pray, and we often make prayer requests, we might even rest our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. But too often we leave out giving thanks as part of our prayer life. We forget to give thanks because we our hearts naturally turn to the things that we don’t have. It’s far too easy to look around and think about what your life is missing compared to others, about what you don’t have, about what you need God to take care of.
It doesn’t come naturally to give thanks, though. I didn’t have to teach any of my children to ask for things, but I do have to teach them to give thanks. A mark of Christian maturity is when giving thanks to God is as hardwired into our hearts as making request’s of Him is.
Paul tells us that thanksgiving goes right along with prayer, that taking our worries to God and thanking God for what He’s already given should be part of the same prayer. What are the benefits of thanksgiving in our prayers?
- Thankfulness motivates me to pray. We naturally turn to prayer when discouraged, but looking around in thankfulness will remind us of all that God has done for us already. Who would not want to pray to a God who has already blessed you in so many ways?
- Thankfulness helps us pray with confidence. Not only does it motivate us to pray, it helps us be sure that God hears us and wants to act on our behalf. God has acted in so many ways in the past that we can be sure He will act in the future. Seeing the pattern of how God has blessed us in the past will lead us to confidence that He will do it again.
- Thankfulness leads to peace. Paul says it in Phil 4 that the prayer and thanksgiving we offer that the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Giving thanks to God will help calm our anxiety about the future and give us a peace about the past. This peace of God “guards” our hearts and minds in such a way that they cannot be affected by all the troubles of this world.
There are many practical ways you can integrate prayer into your life. Write a list, look around you, ask others, or ask God to show you what you have to be thankful for.
We all know that as Christians we need to pray. But don’t get so caught up in asking God’s help for the future that you fail to thank God for His help in the the past.