Commanded to Pray- Philippians 4:4-7

In this passage, Paul commands believers to pray through a series of imperatives, giving us several principles and benefits of prayer. He begins in verse 4 with the command to rejoice always. How do we do so?, through prayer. He then commands us, in verse 5, to let our gentleness be evident to all. Why can we do so? Because the Lord is “at hand”, He is alive, active, involved and interested in our lives, and prayer is our way of engaging the Lord who is “at hand”. We are then commanded, in verse 6, to be anxious for nothing. It is interesting to note here that anxiety is seen as a choice, that we can be commanded not to be anxious. How exactly do we pull this off? Paul’s answer here is through prayer. The Greek word anxious here is merimnao, which literally means “to care”. There is here a presupposition of human beings caring for themselves, and worry or anxiety is seen as caring about yourself to your own harm. We are exhorted here not to quit caring about ourselves, but to cast our cares upon the Lord, for He is at hand and concerned about us. To what extent is He concerned about us? We are commanded to pray about “everything”. No matter is too small or unimportant, anything which causes us worry is a matter for prayer. Paul here uses two different Greek words for prayer. The first is proseuchomai, literally “to come before”. This word is descriptive not so much of an action but of an attitude, a continual living of life in the presence of God, all of life lived before him and in continual communication with Him. The second word is deomai, literally “petition”. This word describes what is normally thought of as prayer, to present a specific request regarding a specific situation. It is crucial to note here that these petitions are by nature requests. We do not make demands of God and are not to try to manipulate him through prayer, but are simply to let him know what we would like to see happen regarding the situation, but trusting that He knows better than we do and will do what is best for us in all situations. We are also commanded to pray with thanksgiving, which functions as an expression of faith, thanking Him because through prayer we have placed the situation in His hands, not trying to manipulate Him to do our will, but leaving the situation in His hands and trusting Him to do what is best for us. We are then assured that when we truly do this, the benefit will be that the “peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds”. The word peace here is eirene, the New Testament equivalent of the Hebrew shalom, which means that all is well. Everything is now fine, for the situation has been placed in the hands of an all-powerful God who loves us enough to die for us. This peace is the opposite of anxiety, since he is now “caring” for us, we no longer need “care” for ourselves. Prayer is presented here as the means by which we obtain this peace, and continual prayer would be our means of keeping it. This peace is here provided for both our hearts and minds. The heart, in the Bible, is the source of what we feel, think and do. An attitude of prayer stands watch over all of these, guarding us from feeling, thinking and acting wrongly in an effort to “care” for ourselves. The mind here represents our thinking, and proper prayer brings peace of mind, causing worry over the situation to disappear, not constantly thinking about and worrying about the situation, but leaving it in God’s hands. We can see here how genuine biblical prayer may not always change the circumstances, but that proper biblical prayer will always change us, which is what being in the presence of God will always do.

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