Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.…
1. By prayer is meant the general, and by supplication the particular act of devotion. Do not forget the second element. There is a good deal of generalizing in prayer. What we want is more definite pleading with God. When Abraham prayed he did not merely adore God but offered specific petitions, and Elijah prayed for rain there and then.
2. But whether general or specific we are to offer thanksgiving. Hence it follows —
(1) That we ought always to be in a thankful condition of heart. "Thus will I bless Thee while I live."(2) That the blending of thanks with devotion is always to be maintained. Though the prayer should struggle upward out of the depths, yet must its wings be silvered o'er with thanksgiving. These two holy streams flow from a common source and should mingle as they flow; like kindred colours they shade off into each other.
(3) This commingling of precious things is admirable. Prayer is myrrh, and praise is frankincense. The holy incense of the sanctuary yielded the smoke of prayer which filled the holy place, but with it was the sweet perfume of praise. Prayer and praise are like the two cherubim, they must never be separated. Note how our Lord mingles both in the model prayer, and David in the Psalms (Psalm 18:3). And so St. Paul (Romans 1:8-9; Colossians 1:3; 1 Thessalonians 1:2; 2 Timothy 1:3; Philippians 1:3-4), and when he and Silas, when in the Philippian jail, they prayed and sang praises.
I. THE REASONS FOR MINGLING THANKSGIVING WITH PRAYER. In the nature of things it should be so. We do not come to God as if He had left us penniless. Thanksgiving is our right attitude towards One who daily loadeth us with benefits. You have cause for thanksgiving.
1. That such a thing as prayer is possible — that God should have commanded and encouraged it, and supplied all things necessary for its exercise — the blood-besprinkled mercy seat, the perpetual Intercessor, the spirit of grace and supplication who helpeth our infirmities.
2. That we are spared and permitted to pray. It is of the Lord's mercy that we are not consumed. Like David we may not be able to go up to the house of prayer, but we can still pray. The prodigal has lost his substance, but not his power to supplicate.
3. That we have already received great mercy at God's hands. If we never received another favour we have had enough for ceaseless praise. Whatever we may ask for cannot be one-half so great as what has been received. We have life in Christ; and that is more than food or raiment. If Christ is thine, He who gave thee Him will deny thee nothing.
4. That prayer has been answered so many times before.
5. That we have the mercy which we seek. We antedate our gratitude with men. Your promise to pay a man's rent when it has become due is the object of thanks before a farthing has left your pocket. Shall we not be willing to trust God a few months or years beforehand.
6. If the Lord does not answer the prayer we are offering, yet, still, He is so good. that we will bless Him whether or no. How devoutly might some of us thank Him that He did not grant the evil things we sought in the ignorance of our childish minds. We asked for flesh and He might have sent us quails in His anger. The Lord's roughest usage is only love in disguise.
II. THE EVIL OF THE ABSENCE OF THANKSGIVING.
1. We should be chargeable with ingratitude. Aristotle said, "A return is required to preserve friendship between two persons;" and if we have nothing else but gratitude let us abound therein.
2. It would argue great selfishness. Can it be right to pray for benefits and never honour our Benefactor.
3. Thanksgiving prevents prayer from becoming an exhibition of want of faith. If when I am in trouble I still bless God for all I suffer, therein my faith is seen. Is our faith such that it only sings in the sunshine? Have we no nightingale music for our God? Is our trust like the swallow, which must leave us in winter? Is our faith a flower that needs a conservatory to keep it active? Can it not blossom like gentian at the foot of the frozen glacier.
4. Not to thank God would argue wilfulness and want of submission to His will. Must everything be ordered according to our own mind? Much of the prayer of rebellious hearts is the mere growling of an angry obstinacy, the whine of an ungratified self-conceit.
III. THE RESULT OF THANKSGIVING IN CONNECTION WITH PRAYER.
1. Peace (vers. 5, 7). Some men pray, and therein they do well; but for lack of mixing thanksgiving with it they come away from the closet even more anxious than when they entered it.
2. Thanksgiving will warm the soul and enable it to pray. Do not pump up unwilling formal prayer. Take the hymn book and sing.
3. When a man begins to pray with thanksgiving he is on the eve of receiving the blessing. God's time to bless you has come when you begin to bless Him (2 Chronicles 20:20, etc.). Our thanksgiving will show that the reason for our waiting is now exhausted; that the waiting has answered its purposes, and may now come to a joyful end. When you put up a thanksgiving on the ground that God has answered your prayer, you have really prevailed with God.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.