Philippians 4:6-7 (NIV): 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.
Paul prayed a lot. Not only did he pray for his own needs, but he continually lifted up the needs of the various churches that he was connected to or familiar with. (Cf. Romans 1:9-10; 1 Corinthians 1:4; Ephesians 1:16; Philippians 1:4; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2.) And with all that he had to pray for, he could easily just launch into his list of wants and needs each day, like so many do.
But Paul always included abundant praise and thanksgiving in every prayer. Even in jail he had a lot to be thankful for. He never had to scratch his head and search hard to find something to praise the Lord for. His focus was on what God was doing ever day. He saw how God met his need for food, not only through the jail system itself, but by gifts sent from the churches. Every day Paul was preaching the gospel, so every day he got to see lives touched deeply, if not changed entirely. God’s presence was powerfully present in his heart, so he knew that the Lord was always with him. God frequently communicated His will to Paul, so that he was always certain of being where God wanted him to be, and doing what He had called him to do.
So when Paul prayed, a good deal of his prayers consisted of praise and thanksgiving, which actually empowered his petitions. His instructions to present requests to God by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING are the key to receiving the peace which transcends all understanding. Without a continual review of God’s blessings, a person’s focus in prayer becomes only on their unmet needs. But by keeping God’s blessings, His provision, and the prayers that He has already answered on the front burner all the time, it inspires hope and a calm assurance of God’s presence and His working on behalf of His people, no matter what the circumstances.
Father, forgive our tendency to focus so hard on our wants and needs that we entirely miss Your blessings. Forgive us for merely launching into our litany of requests, so that we forget to say thank You for the thousands of blessings that You already give us every day. Thank You for this reminder. Amen.