I recently read Philippians 4:6-7 again. It’s one of those familiar passages that catches your attention because of the result that’s promised at the end of it: the peace of God that guards your heart. Who doesn’t want peace? In the urban city centers of L.A., peace is a coveted commodity from the homeless man to the Beverly Hills dweller. The path to peace is in having the faith to present your requests to God. But then, the verse tells us something unexpected, atypical and almost illogical. You’d have to do a double take on it and ponder on it for a moment to allow it to sink in. It mentions ‘thanksgiving’ but not in a way that we normally understand it.
Thanksgiving is generally thought of as a response to fortune, blessings and favor. So during the Thanksgiving Holiday, we encourage each other to be thankful by thinking of the good things that you received which may have overlooked during the year. You thank God for your health, safety, family, a roof over your head, etc. By doing so, we develop a positive attitude of thankfulness. But this really isn’t the thrust of these Bible verses when it talks about thanksgiving.
The verses tell us to pray and petition with thanksgiving in our hearts. The thankfulness does not come after a blessing has been received, after a prayer is answered, or only for things you already possess. The heart of thanksgiving accompanies the request. Thankfulness is not merely responsive; it is preemptive and proactive. Well, how can you be thankful when you haven’t received? The thankfulness is an attitude of the heart toward God, and it is a way in which you interact with God. You can talk to God with gratitude and thanksgiving. Your prayers and petitions can be out of a honest desperation, need and yearning, but it doesn’t have to be absent of thankfulness towards God who hears you, loves you, watches over you, and is able to provide for you out of his wisdom. In this way, thanksgiving is unceasing and it remains when prayers are answered and when they are not, because thanksgiving is part of the way you pray. Thanksgiving then is a power to us even in our times of need and not only a reaction in our times of plenty. It is not in the things you have that give you peace. It is your secure relationship with God, whom you can cry out to with thankfulness that welcomes the peace of God into your heart.
This Thanksgiving Holiday, seize thanksgiving as a way you pray and not only as a reaction to prayers answered. Pray for something you have not received yet and try being thankful in that request before God. Happy Thanksgiving!