“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” –Philippians 4:6
This verse is one of my favorites because on the surface it seems so clear and easy to understand. It seems to set the expectation that when I am feeling anxious, about anything, I should pray about it. But how often do I actually do this? If I’m being honest, the answer is far less often than I should. When presented with any situation that makes me anxious, do I even realize I’m feeling anxiety? More often than not, I don’t immediately recognize what’s happening as anxiety. It usually feels like me trying to grasp control of a situation and try to create what I ultimately want to as the outcome.
The problem with that is I’m usually only looking about one foot in front of myself. When I am feeling anxious or trying to control a situation, I’m only thinking about what happens next and how it impacts me. I don’t see the whole picture. My anxiety causes me to be short-sighted and seek out things that will give me what I perceive as immediate gratification. Sometimes that looks like maybe not telling a whole truth because it’s easier for me to just tell part of the story. Other times it means I snap at someone I care about because they are pushing buttons that I don’t want pushed. You might react in a similar way or even in a totally different way. But what I know isn’t my knee-jerk reaction near often enough is to pray.
When I read that verse, it’s so easy to gloss over what we are actually called to do. “Sure, sure, God, I’ll pray to you about the big things, the big requests, I’ll present them to you”, but that’s not what the verse calls us to do, is it? This verse says, in every situation, that means the situation with a co-worker that causes me frustration, that means when I’m anxious about an upcoming meeting or presentation, and even as trivial as it sounds, somedays it’s driving to work. In all of those situations, we’re called to present our requests to God through prayer and petition, and not just that, but also with thanksgiving. So not only am I called to pray about everything that makes me anxious, but I should be thankful about these situations? That’s a lot, right? I think what Paul is telling us here is that we shouldn’t just be reading off a list of things that make us anxious or frustrated, but we need to acknowledge why we are even praying in the first place. We present these requests to God because he cares about us (1 Peter 5:7) and even the act of praying, whether 1 second or 1 minute, helps put us in a right position before God. And when we do that in the big things as well as the little things, we are able to muster what the next verse promises:
“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” Philippians 4:7.
written by Emily Roark