I saw something new in Philippians 4.6-7 this week:
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all comprehension will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
No, this wasn’t the first time I noticed the phrase “with thanksgiving”…but it might have been the first time I really stopped to think about it. My guess is you might say the same. If someone asked you to quote these verses, you might rattle them off fairly successfully, but leaving out “with thanksgiving.” I think I would have until this week.
Here’s the thing. We most often retreat to these verses in times of anxiety, stress, or difficulty. That is what they are for! But it is precisely these times of difficulty when we feel least thankful. It is at these times when requests—not thanksgivings—seem most appropriate and urgent. In fact, sometimes we may only have a brief moment to pray in a catastrophic situation—yet Paul is urging us in that moment to give thanks? Yes! Even when thanksgiving seems out of place or unimportant, we are to do it. In fact, we should never pray without giving thanks.
Here are three suggestions for how you might pray thankfully, even when the going is rough:
1. Be thankful in spite of your difficulty. No one is glad about losing a child, or being unemployed. But in those moments we can thank God for His other myriad blessings—for Christ, for the privilege of prayer, for a supportive family or church, for the savings we can now fall back on. There is never a shortage of reasons to say “Thank you, Lord.”
2. Be thankful because of your difficulty. Pray like this: “Father, I cannot see it…but I know that somehow, some way, this is for my good. I know you are going to make Romans 8.28 come true in my life. I know this will work for my good, and for Your glory. Thank you God for the blessing of trials that draw me nearer to You.”
3. Be thankful for God’s promises to answer your prayers. After you thank God for His other kindnesses, pray. And after you pray, thank Him ahead of time for how He is going to answer your prayers according to His good will.
So, start praying. And remember, there are always at least three ways to be thankful in every circumstance!