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A Prayer and Fasting Devotional

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” - Philippians 4:6

Philippians 4:6 is one of the most well-known and certainly most quoted passages in Philippians.  And no wonder since in a modern day, anxiety-prone society we find God’s very real alternative to experiencing anxiety in just a few short verses.  While there is no doubt that these verses are applicable to our lives today, it appears that they were also applicable to the Philippians as well.

In the original language, Paul is in effect telling them to stop being distracted with “anxious harassing cares,” “fretfulness,” “undue concern,” or an “unreasonable anxiety” which arises in one who is full of cares and, thus, distracted in mind.  Amazingly, Paul’s counsel excludes all exceptions!  It is important to note that such a broad admonition should not presuppose a superficial attitude to life’s troubles.  As one scholar notes, “Paul and the Philippians had ample reason for anxiety since the one was in prison and the others were threatened with persecution.  So he is not speaking of imaginary troubles or phantom anxieties.  Hence, when he tells them to stop worrying, to be overly anxious for nothing, leaving them no exceptions, it is not because he makes light of the troubles which they face, but because he knows that God is greater than all their troubles.”[1]

They are to counter anxious,harassing cares, in all the details and circumstances of life, by something very simple and yet very profound – petitionary prayer, offered along with thanksgiving.  Three synonyms for prayer are used together in addition to the regular noun for “thanksgiving.” According to one scholar, “the effect of this accumulation of three synonymous nouns for petitionary prayer is to emphasize the importance in the Christian life of constancy in believing and expectant prayer…In doing this, the Philippians acknowledge their total dependence upon God, and at the same time they are assured that he knows their earnest desires.  They have told Him of them.”[2]  There is an utter dependence on God, while at the same time a complete trust in Him.  We are able to live “without care” (but not uncaringly or carelessly), and prayer coupled with heartfelt thanksgiving is a critical component of experiencing this kind of life.

That is exactly what we hope these days of prayer and fasting bring to you.  By God’s grace, may a spiritual power and presence be released in our lives that enable each of us to “counter the anxious, harassing cares in all of the details and circumstances of life!”

[1] Gerald F. Hawthorne, Word Biblical Commentary: Philippians (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1983), pg. 183.

[2] Peter T. O’Brien, The New International Greek Testament Commentary, The Epistle to the Philippians (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991), pg. 493­.  

Dan Knapke
Chief Operating Officer