Pray with Thanksgiving
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. (Phil. 4:4-7)
When it comes to answering prayer, God is decidedly generous! I can recall at least two occasions when the Lord has said ‘You haven’t prayed for such and such or so and so today,’ and I have been amazed that He had noticed what I had felt to be highly hesitant attempts to pray for them. He is so generous that He hears, counts and uses our least whispers and half-formed intentions – but when Paul tells us to let our prayers and requests be boldly made known to God (in Philippians 4:6), the word for requests, deésis, goes far beyond any mere tokenism: it speaks of really heartfelt, passionate and fervent prayer, arising from a profound sense of lack, or need.
It is easy to forget the second half of this verse, Paul’s stipulation (we could say his insistence, even from his deep dark Roman prison!) that this be made with thanksgiving – eucharistias. Elsewhere Paul writes, ‘In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ for you.’ (1 Thess. 5:18). The eu (pronounced yoo) at the start of eucharistias means good, as in the sense of both positive affirmation and a pleasant inner warmth, whilst charis means grace or kindness. That little word ‘eu’ is an important reminder that however grim our circumstances, we are still to be thankful for the grace that the Lord constantly makes available for us to appropriate.
Given that so many are in urgent need of help and rescue, who would the Lord have us direct our lesson prayers towards?
See also the section on ‘It is well with my soul’ in Handling Dark Times in Vale of Tears.