How to Pray, Part 2
Philippians 4 calls us not just to prayer and supplication, but also to thanksgiving and making our requests known to God.
Giving thanks is a necessary part of the prayer equation. Without it, our prayer life quickly becomes imbalanced. Now, it's easy to thank God for obvious blessings—a promotion, a bonus at Christmas time, a healing. It's not so easy to thank Him when the cupboards are bare and the bills are overdue. It's even harder when you're back in the hospital again, when the car breaks down again, when your kid gets in trouble again, when you're so stressed and consumed with worry that you wonder, What could I possibly thank Him for?
Giving thanks in those situations isn't easy, but it's necessary. Here's why: God uses the trials you go through to mature you. He thinks you're ready to go deeper into faith and trust, so He in His unsurpassed wisdom and love, allows hard times in your life. It's a test of sorts, one that He feels you're ready to take. So whatever trial you find yourself in, stop to think and then thank. Think about what God has done for you in the past, and thank Him for His promise to walk with you through this trial now and use it to grow your faith.
Gratitude develops the right attitude in you. Thankfulness increases the confidence with which you make supplication, because you develop the expectation—the faith—that God will do a good work even in the midst of your pain.
The final aspect of prayer Paul talked about was "[letting] your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). Notice he didn't say to let your demands, your ultimatum, your temper tantrum, or your claim-it-by-faith be made known to God. Think of your request as a wish, because a wish often represents something we deeply want but know we need help to get. The idea of wishing on a star carries that sense of hopeful humility.
But unlike wishing on a star, you're going before the God who created the stars and sprinkled the heavens with them, which means respect is required. You are to lay down your request before Him and wait on His response. You don't demand an audience with Him or trust that your speak-to-the-manager attitude will intimidate Him.
Because God might say yes. He might say no. He might say maybe, or wait. If your request lines up with His will, He might act immediately, or it might take a while to unfold. However He chooses to respond, your part is to ask, seek, and knock, being persistent but reverential.
God knows the whole story and has a fuller picture than you ever could have. Yes, that means He already knows what you want to ask Him, but He still wants you to ask. That's because you're not informing God when you pray but rather being conformed to Him, expressing your trust in Him. And He loves you and wants to help you. So let Him know your requests.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12 ESV