Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.…
The two precepts balance each other. The first especially would be misunderstood if it stood alone. They are so connected with "but" as to exclude each other. You may have either, but you cannot have both. The careful is not prayerful; the prayerful is not careful.
I. LET YOUR REQUESTS BE MADE KNOWN UNTO GOD.
(1) All creatures are dependent. The earth by dumb signs asks the rain from heaven to refresh its dust and make it fruitful. The air asks moisture from the ocean; the ocean from the rivers. All are needy and seek their supply from Him in whom all fulness dwells.
(2) Man with the greatest capacity is distinguished by the greatest need. The child is much more dependent on its parents' care than the young of other creatures, So the child of God's family needs much more from the Father's hand. How many times has a man of sixty breathed? How vast the supply of air, and how close to his lips? The act of breathing seems an emblem at once of the creature's continual need, and of the Creator's abundant supply. His goodness has compassed us about like the atmosphere; and when we open our mouth it is filled with good.
2. Make them known to God.
(1) The lower part of our nature is supplied as God supplies that of the beasts. But God desires company among His creatures. He did not find among them any fit for this until He made man in His own image. Fathers love to supply their children's wants; inconceivably greater is God's delight. Human fathers have a defective love in their hearts and a defective supply in their hands: they sometimes will not, and sometimes cannot, give what their children require. But our Father in heaven is not limited on either side.
(2) When man fell the relation was broken off. it a great price the channel was opened again. God has, through Christ, made known His fulness: we should, through Christ, make known to Him our need.
3. Your requests — your own — not what other people have asked, or what you have learned to repeat. Jesus set a little child in the midst of His disciples, and said, "Give me a child's simplicity." The wants it cries for are its own, and whether intelligible or not are real, not feigned. What element in the request of his little child goes home to the father's heart, filling it with delight and opening sluices for a flood of gifts? It is this — they are his own child's own requests. This quality, "yours," will cover a multitude of sins against grammar and other earthly laws.
II. BY PRAYER AND SUPPLICATION WITH THANKSGIVING.
1. Prayer. This is the soul's believing and reverential approach unto God. It is the prelude to the request and thanksgiving. The pattern prayer commences with "Our Father." The prayer and supplication follow.
2. Supplication — the specific request. The word means asking, but its radical signification is "want:" hence it came to mean a craving for supply.
3. With thanksgiving — for past favours.
4. The relation of these two elements of a soul's communion with God.
(1) Supplication with thanksgiving seems to intimate that we are apt to omit this latter ingredient, and to warn us that the omission will vitiate all. To ply the asking without the song of praise seems like taking some ingredients of the physician's prescription and leaving out one.
(2) The currents of grace run in circles as well as in nature — the believer draws from God a stream of benefits and returns the incense of praise.
III. IS EVERYTHING.
1. Pray. At all times, in all places, about everything. Not on the Sabbath, or in church only. Our Father takes it ill if we send in our request for the pardon of sin, but ask not His counsel about the choice of a companion or an investment in trade. He is not a man of little faith who puts little things into his prayers.
2. Give thanks. There is nothing here contrary to nature. God's commandments are not grievous. You need not give thanks for suffering, but even in sorrow there is room for praise. E.g.(1) In the things you do not suffer — when in bodily pain that the mind is clear; or when suffering from calumny that you have a good conscience towards God; or when you have lost your money that your children survive.
(2) For the good sorrow brings in fruit unto holiness.
(3) But in all cases there is room for thanks in the "unspeakable Gift."
(W. Arnot, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.