On occasion when I pick up my phone to order pizza for delivery, inevitably one or both of our daughters will feel the need to clarify their preferences before I dial the number or log on to the site of our favorite local pizzeria. “Don’t forget I like pepperoni,” or “What kind are you getting?” Because I possess a bend toward sarcasm, I usually reply something along the lines of “sardines with a side of anchovies, onions, and jalapenos.” This always triggers their memory banks, as they recall, Mom knows us well. She knows what we like and what we don’t like. And she always orders what we need.
Despite the fact that I’ve never ordered pizzas with sardines or anchovies on them, our daughters want to clarify their desires to ensure that those desires are met. There’s no need to take that great of a risk on a Friday night, right?
As I grapple in my own relationship with my heavenly Father, I often get the sense that He’s chuckling at my humanity. At times I nearly laugh at myself if I am not loathing my own forgetfulness of His continual provision, superior wisdom, and intrinsic awareness of who I am, what I am supposed to be doing, what I have said (and even thought about saying), and where I am going. I don’t know about you but I continually rest in David’s sentiments as he wrote in Psalms 103, “For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust.” There are many days I’m flailing around in my head, heart, and spirit, wrestling for the right words to say to the Lord or pressing in, grasping for any words of insight He will release to me. Other days, this ever-evolving relationship with the Father is effortless, as though we are completely in sync, leaving words for a later season.
Like my girls who can’t resist the urge to remind me of their desires, I can’t help but put in a few requests of my own now and again in prayer. But guess what? That’s exactly what the Father is looking for from us. On the heels of last week’s simple but clarion instructions, “Don’t worry but pray about everything” (Phil 4:6), we find Paul following right up with these additional directives:
Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. (Phil 4:6 NLT)
At first glance we notice that the request is made known before the gratitude. Throughout my life I’ve been taught to offer thanks to the Lord before I ask anything of Him. And there’s certainly Scriptural foundation for that model of prayer. Jesus gave the ideal model in Matthew 6 as He boldly dismantled what had become customary for religious leaders of that day. They were known for throwing a parade each time they gave to someone in need or fasted in prayer. Jesus reminded His followers that privacy, humility, and gratefulness were the primary ingredients of prayer that evokes heavenly response. Remember how graciously but succinctly He provided a model prayer? Simple. Concise. But powerful.
We humbly honor Your holy name.
We want Your will to be accomplished here on earth, just as it is in Heaven.
We trust You to supply our fundamental needs just as we need them, and not a day too early.
We are in desperate need of Your forgiveness, and ask You to help us to give that same forgiveness to others.
We cling to You so that we won’t be ensnared by the enemy of our souls.
But Paul is shaking things up a bit with his directives to the Philippian believers. He places the request for needs before the intentional expression of gratitude. As I was meditating on that verse recently it occurred to me: perhaps, if we tell God what we need and follow with thanks for all He has done in the past, we will release God to do what only He can do because we are reminded of what He has already done.
…perhaps we will release God to do what only He can do because we are reminded of what He has already done.
You see, when I remind my girls that I have never once ordered a pizza for them that is laced with the slightest scent of fish, they immediately raise their hands, step back, and let me get to ordering our family’s favorite fare. All of a sudden their hearts shift from concern over their “need” to gratitude for what they’re about to receive. They remember with gratitude that this momma has got their needs covered. Off they run to entertain themselves until the doorbell rings, the dog begins to bark, and the scent of pepperoni wafts through the house.
What is it that you need? Have you expressly given that request to the Lord recently? Or are you wringing your hands, exhausting your own resources in an effort to do God’s job for Him?
Paul reminds us that the choice to kick worry to the curb, followed by intentional and consistent prayer, makes way for the requests to be known by an on-time, miracle-working, way-making God! And the cycle continues as we follow those requests with praise in advance because, after all, God has never failed us yet.
Counting on God,