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In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
The word translated nothing in Greek is (μηδείς mēdeis, μηδεμία mēdemia, μηδέν mēden) and means exactly that, nothing. If we have just one small part or one small thing, we do not have nothing. This is an all-inclusive word. Just as if one part is left out, you cannot have all; you cannot have nothing if one part is added.
Worry is anxiety, and Jesus warned us about it in Matthew 6: 25-34. The Greek word “anxious” is the word (μεριμνάω merimnaō) and means to be drawn in different directions and distracted. Is Paul telling us not to be concerned with the things that are happening in our lives and the world around us? No. Just as the Lord Jesus taught that we were not to be anxious or distracted over the things of tomorrow, Paul is saying is that in days of trouble, trials, and tension, we need the antidote for worry. We do not worry or be anxious about anything because we are talking to God about everything.
Prayer is that antidote for worry. Three words that Paul uses here express different aspects of prayer. First, he says everything by “prayer.” The word in Greek is (προσευχή proseuchē) and is the general term for prayer, a worshipful attitude that we come with to God.
The second term Paul uses is (δέησις deēsis), which is translated as supplication. This is a petition, a need that one has, and it is the requests, the specific concern that is voiced.
The third word that Paul uses is translated as thanksgiving, and in the Greek it is (εὐχαριστία eucharistia), and it is the same word that we get our word Eucharist (meaning the Lord’s Supper or Communion) from. It denotes gratefulness or a giving of thanks. We are admonished by Paul to worry about nothing, pray about everything, and thank God for all things.
Francois Fenelon has written about praying about everything:
“Tell God all that is in your heart, as one unloads one’s heart, it’s pleasures, and it’s pains, to a dear friend.
Tell him your troubles, that he may comfort you; tell him your joys, that he may sober them; tell him your longings, that he may purify them; tell him your dislikes, that he may help you conquer them; talk to him of your temptations, that he may shield you from them; show him the wounds of your heart, that he may heal them; lay bare your indifference to good, your depraved tastes for evil, your instability. Tell him how self-love makes you unjust to others, how vanity tempts you to be insincere, how pride disguises you to yourself and others.
If you thus pour out your weaknesses, needs, troubles, there will be no lack of what to say. You will never exhaust the subject. It is continually being renewed. People who have no secrets from each other never want for subject of conversation. They do not weigh their words, for there is nothing to be held back, neither do they seek for something to say. They talk out of the abundance of their heart, without consideration they say just what they think. Blessed are they who attain to such familiar, unreserved intercourse with God.”
That is a good reminder to all of us of what praying about everything means.
More in-depth Insights
James 4:3 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.
You ask and do not receive. This person is haphazard in asking God for things, mostly going to God when something bad happens in his life or wants to ask for something. The other problem here is that some pray about things that are not needed or according to God’s will and purposes. We want to pray about anything that might affect our relationship with God. (Philippians 4:6-7) The example prayer that Jesus gave the apostles shows that we should pray about God and his purpose. We can pray about material needs, our sins and help to resist temptation. (Matthew 6:9-13) James is referring to persons who offer selfish prayers. We should only pray for things that correspond to the will of God. (1 John 5:14) Think of those praying at a Friday night football game. Think of those who pray for success in their worldly jobs that would give them no time for church or family. God listens only to the prayers of those who have a righteous standing before him. If our prayers are to be heard by God, we must make every effort to live a Christian life based on a correct understanding of the Bible. (Proverbs 15:29; 28:9) We must be humble when we pray. (Luke 18:9-14) We need to pray on behalf of the prayers we make. It does no good to pray for deeper Bible knowledge and then seldom study the Bible. God will know we have faith even before we pray, but there needs to still be an outward display that we really mean what we say. Only then will God consider our prayers. (Hebrews 11:6) I say consider because he does not answer all prayers with an affirmative. Sometimes, the answer is a no.
Because you ask with wrong motives. We should not pray with self-indulgence and carnal pleasure.
So that you may spend it on your pleasures. This is the same Greek word used back in 4:1. The usual meaning of the word (ἡδονή hēdonē) is commonly applied to the pleasures of sense and thence denotes sexual desire, pleasure, appetite, lust. In 4:1, it did not have that sense but does so here in 4:3, sensual pleasure or carnal appetite. Some are praying for things that would bring themselves or their family a comfortable living, financial security, and good health, which is a proper desire. However, others are seeking a luxurious lifestyle. Or some have been fortunate enough to become wealthy, and the wealth corrupted them to the point of desiring more and more, even being so bold as to pray for it. We need to examine our motives with the most vigorous scrutiny. The desire for more, or excessively more than is needed, can cause us to be deceived into thinking such prayers are acceptable. God does not expect us to live like monks or even have our basic needs met, to live check-to-check. He has no problem with the desire for a safe and secure life where you are not always anxious over the next meal. But those being addressed by James are a different story.
Their prayers were toward selfish ends, as they had the wrong motives. We think of Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son, as he initially sought to waste his father’s money on his selfish needs. (Lu 15:14) Paul tells us that there is a “constant friction among people, who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.” (1 Tim. 6:5) Jesus said that our prayers should cover the basics of “our daily bread.” (Matt. 6:11) He said that we should ‘seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to us.’ (Matt. 6:33) Again, many do not realize that God does not listen to everyone’s prayers, just those of the righteous. Who are the righteous? They are those who are doing their best in their circumstances to live by God’s Word daily. (Pro. 15:29; 28:9) We must be humble when we are praying. (Lu 18:9-14) Again, we need to evidence our prayers by working on behalf of those prayers. It would do very little good to pray to God to find a job and never fill out applications or go on job interviews. It will do very little good to pray for better health and then eat at only fast-food restaurants and unhealthy foods and snacks at home, and no exercise. It evidences our faith when we work on behalf of what we pray for, as this is what God expects.
We are fooling ourselves if we are using God in our prayers simply for what we can get out of him. This sort of prayer is actually idolatry. How, we may ask, is it idolatry? The pagans believed they could force a god to give them whatever they wanted by using unique words or phrases in their prayers. Jesus told us plainly, “your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” (Matt. 6:8) We can pray for things, but what we pray for must be in harmony with God’s will and purposes. If we are praying for a job that will require us to work 65 hours a week, causing us to have no family life and miss our Christian meetings, do we believe that God is going to bless our efforts?
ThinkExist.com, Francois Fenelon Quotes, http://thinkexist.com/quotation/tell-god-all-that-is-in-your-heart-as-one-unloads/761471.html. Retrieved April 12, 2014.