In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul speaks about how to pray: ‘Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.’
We can discern 3 important characteristics for prayer and the 1st characteristic is freedom from anxiety. Honest prayer asks for closing the door to the immediate cares and anxieties of the world. In John 20 we read about Jesus appearing to His disciples: 'After the doors were shut Jesus came and stood in their midst and said unto them, peace be unto you.' The doors were shut, it means they had shut out the hussle, buzzle and the fears caused by the world around them. And in that sense of quietness they met Jesus in their midst. It might not be easy in this modern world to close all doors in the middle of distraction, but it is part of being anxious in nothing.
When we shut out the anxieties of this world and leave aside the focus on our own wellbeing and instead concentrate on the things of God, we realise there is no need to be anxious in God’s presence. When the disciples were looking for the right way of prayer they asked Jesus how to pray. In Luke 11:1-2 Jesus told them: When you pray say; Father…. It is the word Father that opens the way to trust and confidence in the God Who has revealed Himself in love and support through Jesus Christ. Approaching God as Father means putting our trust in Him and leaving all other things we worry about behind.
A 2nd characteristic of prayer is an attitude of honouring God. Supplication means asking in humbleness and earnestly. Supplication is the frame of mind of a petitioner. It asks for a discipline of honouring God for Who He is and want to be for you. Supplication is not seen in a heated debate about whose interpretation of the Bible is right or wrong. But, supplication becomes recognisable in the quiet effort of our prayers based on a living relationship with God. In supplication we also honour God which translates into respect and high esteem of Him.
Honour can be given for many reasons but it is mainly split in two. The one is through accomplishment and the other is by position. The Queen is honoured not because of what she has done, but because of who she is. It is her position which gives her the honour not because she won the Olympics or whatever. Others we honour not because of their position, but because of what they did or what they achieved. But, we honour God for both reasons. Both for what He has done and for Who He is. He deserves the highest honour as God for Who He is and He deserves our hpnour for what He did for us through Jesus Christ.
The last and 3rd characteristic of prayer is Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is not only for the obvious things we want to thank God for, but for everything. An attitude of thanksgiving in our lives transforms ourselves and that will have its impact on others. Others are not impressed by grumbling and angry believers, but by a spirit of thanksgiving and praise of God. William Law once said that the greatest saint is the person who is always thankful to God. Being thankful is very important in our Christian lives, but even more so in our prayers. Because thankfulness to God replaces feeling of disappointment, of anger, of evil and all other bad feelings.
I’m not talking about those who just say, thank God for this or that. Once I overheard someone saying ‘thank God for this’ on which another replied saying; I thought you’re an atheist you can’t thank God for anything’. Being honestly thankful to God develops a relationship with Him and that relationship grows further through prayer. Perhaps therefore we find so many references in the Bible about being thankful to God. One of the well-known is in Psalm 100; Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him, bless His Name. Being thankful to God is important, not only for our prayesr, but also for our own wellbeing.
It is because of these 3 aspects of prayer: freedom from anxiety; supplication and thankfulness, that Paul end this pericope with : 7. ’And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.’
Bringing those 3 aspects of prayer into our lives will lead to a peace that passes all understanding. And, above that, it will keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Because, without Christ it is not possible to reach God in prayer as He is God’s chosen Instrument to reconcile God with us. Emmanuel; God with us.