On Thursday I had a great lunch with an eternal brother, and the food was good too! Yeah, Papa granted a couple of hours of fellowship, conversation, and laughter with Ron Ritchie—who taught me several years ago to raise my glass in thankful prayer before a meal (and who spoke the convicting words about eating out, “You don’t still think it’s about the food do you?”). We went to one of his “regular” spots, where he warmly greeted several by name as he showed the love Jesus has for each one we met. Before I dropped him off he asked me to pull over, and he prayed; one of the things he requested was for Papa to grant to me—even as I drove home—a renewed thankfulness. His words reminded me of “Pastor Hutch” out at Antioch Bible Church in Kirkland Washington, who has taught thousands to conclude congregational prayer with “Thank You Jesus!” What a healthy attitude amid our many requests. As I drove home Papa answered Ron’s prayer for me. I was reminded again that God uses thankfulness to put things in perspective.
You understand the basic idea of perspective—or, perhaps I should say, the way your point of view affects what things seem big or small. We sometimes express it differently, like when we say: “Well, from where I sit . . ..” God tells us plainly through Paul that we are not to be anxious (worried, “up-tight,” “stressed”) about anything. We might think of it with the tune and re-phased the line from a song popular a few years back, “Don’t worry. Be praying.” But . . . that isn’t the whole picture. When we try to reduce truth to a slogan, truth often suffers. If you look at Philippians 4 (starting around verse 6) you will see that the real encouragement is to be both praying and thankful. God doesn’t here call on us to be thankful for all our circumstances; but He does call on us to be thankful in the midst of our praying about our circumstance—tell Papa what you’re bothered about, tell Him what you’d like, and do so with thankfulness.
I don’t know what your circumstances are today, or how long you’ve been in them. My circumstance is that I’ve been thinking I need more income and a place to live (other than with our family here). In the midst of your circumstance, think about Paul’s instruction: “. . . with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” What are your requests in your circumstances?
Maybe it would help you to think of Jesus and Bartimaeus. I like the way Luke tells it (chapter 18). He says, “a blind man was sitting by the road begging.” When this blind man learned Jesus was passing by he started shouting, “Have mercy! Son of David, have mercy!” Jesus has them call him over. Can you picture the scene? A blind man now standing in front of Jesus. Are you at all surprised that Jesus asks: “What would you have me do for you?” Can you hear Him asking you that question? What do you say? Bartimaeus wasn’t timid—he declared, “Lord, I want to regain my sight!” . . . Done! That was Bartimaeus, but I think Jesus is asking each of us the same question. How do we answer, you and me? Do you make your request known? Do I? . . . That’s pretty convicting, but I’m not finished—I’ll go on to meddling! Combining the account from Luke with the instruction of Paul, I also ask: Do we express our requests with thankfulness? Are we acknowledging the greatness of the offer implied by Jesus’ question? Are we mindful of the greatness of God—with Whom all things are possible? Are we asking for too little?
Paul’s next statement provides an amazing assurance. He tells us that when we pray, expressing thankfulness amid our requests, God gives us . . . peace. He doesn’t say we need to ask for peace (although that may have been part of our request). He doesn’t tell us we necessarily get what we requested, even if it was coupled with thankfulness. This isn’t magic. God can’t be manipulated. Yet, He tells us that when thankfulness frames our requests, peace will be given to us. I experienced that on Thursday afternoon.
Papa, thanks that we can talk with You; thanks that You care about us and our circumstances; thanks that You—the God who created and sustains the universe—invite us to bring our requests to You. Thank you that through Jesus You have birthed us into Your family and sent Your Spirit to live in us always. Today, I ask that You would continue to increase our thankfulness. You are so good.
And all God’s people said . . .
Thank You Jesus!