Every once in a while I find myself ruminating on a piece of scripture in a curious sort of way. Not that ruminating on scripture is curious, rather I mean that I get curious about what I’m ruminating on. This happened recently with Philippians 4 and that oft-quoted passage:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
I don’t know about you, but I am in desperate need of that peace that transcends understanding.
And so even though this is one of those verses that fades into the background of familiarity, I found myself wanting a piece of that peace badly enough that I took a second look. What, exactly, is it that I must do to get some of that peace?
The first part, don’t be anxious, seems a bit of any oxymoron since if I wasn’t anxious I wouldn’t be seeking so desperately for peace to begin with. It’s a bit like saying, don’t be sad and you’ll receive happiness. But okay, I guess I can see where letting go of worry will help me on the peace journey.
The next part, presenting requests to God through prayer and petition, I’ve got down. I’m asking Him in everything all right. And asking Him, and asking Him…
But the word that snagged me, the single word out of this whole piece of scripture that I found myself really thinking about, was the way in which we are supposed to ask.
If this is the lynchpin – if the manner in which I ask for God’s help is what manifests peace in my life – then I want to know what this means. I want to know exactly what it means to ask with thanksgiving. The more I thought about this single word, the more complex it appeared. Here are a few of the ways I think we approach God with Thanksgiving:
With gratefulness for what we already have. It’s easy to say but not always so easy to do when our hearts are breaking or fear has camped on our doorstep. The need we are presenting to God can feel all-consuming. How can we think of anything else when our request looms so large before us? But genuinely meditating on the things we are grateful for is the first step to asking God with thanksgiving.
With gratefulness for what we will have. This aspect of thanksgiving expresses trust that God is answering our plea in the best possible way, recognizing His wisdom and His timing and His providence. Even when we do not see positive change, we can know that God is working behind the scenes. And along the way we can thank God for the small progresses, the small hopes, the small glimpses that He is indeed working all things together for our good.
With grateful boldness. Our Father does not want us to ask in a sniveling, unworthy kind of way. Instead, Jesus said, ask and it will be given to you. If you who are sinners know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give to you all that you need?
Boldly approach the throne of grace. As children of God we have been given a deep assurance of the Father’s love for us. He wants us to come to Him with every prayer and petition, knowing that He will hear us. Be bold.
Our Father has given us the promise that we can come to Him with every request and need. Let us lay our requests before him with thanksgiving.
Janet Beagle, Ph.D. serves as director of graduate programs for Purdue University’s College of Engineering and is a writer, a Bible study teacher, and a student of God’s word. In her spare time, she likes to eat other people’s cooking and hike with her dog, Marly, who recently passed away but is not forgotten. Read more of Janet’s Christian reflections at www.mustardpatch.org.