Baking powder is an ingredient that makes all the difference in baking. It is a secret ingredient in self-rising flour. If you have ever made a cake that fell flat, it may have been because you left out this key ingredient. Philippians chapter four includes a key ingredient in prayer that is often overlooked:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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. (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)
Paul begins by commanding us to rejoice in the Lord, which is easier said than done when we feel stressed or weighted down with worry. Paul is reminding us that joy is often a choice. I know that this is true but how do you ‘get there’ when the last thing you feel in the moment is joyful? Paul is not saying ‘fake it until you make it.’ He is not encouraging us to be inauthentic. He is pointing us to a critical ingredient for experiencing God’s peace. This ingredient is described with two words that I somehow missed seeing in this passage. The words are “with thanksgiving.” Paul says to present your requests to God “with thanksgiving.” What he is instructing us to do is to start our prayers by mentally listing some of the things that we are thankful for rather than jumping into our list of requests. Paul says to bring any and every concern to God, but to do so “with thanksgiving.” In other words, accompanied by a list of things for which we are grateful.
Perhaps the reason that I sometimes pray and do not feel a sense of God’s peace, is that my prayer is not accompanied with thanksgiving. When I forget to acknowledge and mentally list God’s blessings, I tend to resemble an entitled, whining child. Trust me, there is no peace in this approach. For the record, this is not the only time that thanksgiving is associated with prayer and fellowship with God.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. (Psalm 100:4 NIV)
Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful. (Colossians 4:2 NIV)
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)
I could list more scriptures saying the same thing. God wants gratitude to be a habit in our lives. One of the benefits of gratitude, for example, is how it helps protect us against temptation. Notice Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:
But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. (Ephesians 5:3-4 NIV)
One of the sure ways to short circuit our entitlement and quell a spirit of discontentment, is to practice expressing gratitude. Why not start your prayers with a list of some things you are grateful for and see the difference it makes in your fellowship with God!
Yours in Christ,