Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Many books have been written regarding this one verse as the primary topic. One of my favorites is a book by Max Lucado titled, “Anxious For Nothing” (subtitled: “Finding Calm in a Chaotic World”), published in 2017.
Anxiety and fear are cousins but not twins. Fear sees a threat. Anxiety images one.
Fear screams, Get out!
Anxiety ponders, What if?
Fear results in fight or flight. Anxiety creates doom and gloom. Fear is the pulse that pounds when you see a coiled rattlesnake in your front yard. Anxiety is the voice that tells you, Never, ever, for the rest of your life, walk barefooted through the grass. There might be a snake… somewhere…. (Quote source: “Anxious For Nothing,” p. 4–paperback edition).
Anxiety takes our breath, for sure. If only that were all it took. It also takes our sleep. Out energy. Our well-being. “Do not fret,” wrote the psalmist, “it only causes harm” (Psalm 37:8). Harm to our necks, jaws, backs, and bowels. Anxiety can twist us into emotional pretzels. It can make our eyes twitch, blood pressure rise, heads ache, and armpits sweat. To see the consequences of anxiety, just read about half the ailments in a medical textbook.
Chances are that you or someone you know seriously struggles with anxiety. According to the National Institute of Mental, anxiety disorders are reaching epidemic proportions. In any given year nearly fifty million Americans will feel the effects of a panic attack, phobias, or other anxiety disorders. Our chests will tighten. We’ll feel dizzy and light-headed. We’ll fear crowds and avoid people. Anxiety disorders in the United States are the “number one mental health problem among… women and are second only to alcohol and drug abuse among men.” (Quote source: “Anxious For Nothing,” p. 5–paperback edition).
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:6). This verse gives clear direction and offers genuine hope to the believer in Christ.
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, there are a number of things that they may have been worried about. Paul is writing to them when he is under house arrest, courtesy of the Roman Empire. The church in Philippi had supported his missionary work, and they may have been concerned for his well-being (Philippians 1). Apparently, there was some discord in the church with people acting selfishly, and they needed to focus on the example of Christ (Philippians 2). False teachers were also attempting to upset their confidence in Christ (and in Paul’s teaching) by teaching that some form of obedience to the Law was necessary for salvation (Philippians 3). And, finally, the discord in the church had reached such a point that Paul calls out two women by name and asks them to get along with each other (Philippians 4:2).
Paul then concludes his letter with the admonition in Philippians 4:4 to “rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” Here was a church facing external pressures and internal problems, and they may have wondered if it was even possible to break out in joyful celebration.
If discouragement over the problems addressed in the letter (or anything else) was robbing the Philippians of joy, then Paul gives the solution in Philippians 4:6. There is no need to fret and worry about the way things are. The solution is to give the problems over to the Only One who can actually do something about them. The Philippians are to pray in every situation, bringing their petitions (requests) to God and offering prayers of thanksgiving for what God has already done.
Paul does not promise that God will do every single thing they request. They were not being handed a blank check. But he does promise that, when the Philippians pray about things, God will change the Philippians themselves: “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). When they really pray about their problems and choose to be thankful, God will give them peace.
Although written to the Philippian church, the principle of Philippians 4:6 applies to all believers. When we have problems and worries, we often forget to pray about them. Then, when we do pray, we may think that the only help that God can give is to grant the request as we have presented it and change the situation. God may very well do that. He has the power to change any situation, but He will not be limited to that. God does not promise to change every situation to our liking. What He does promise to do is give us peace during any situation. In other words, God may or may not change the circumstance, but He will change our disposition toward it so that it does not cause us inner turmoil.
Practically speaking, Philippians 4:6 gives us a model for the kind of prayer we need to pray when we are anxious or worried. First, we reject worry: do not be anxious about anything. Then, we simply ask God for what we need: in every situation, by prayer and petition, present your requests to God. And we thank Him for all that He has already done: with thanksgiving. Finally, we rest, knowing that He loves us and will work things out for our good and His glory. God’s peace is then ours.
There are a few lines in a song written by Tony Wood and Kevin Stokes that sum up the principle of Philippians 4:6 beautifully:
Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered “peace be still”
He can settle any sea
But it doesn’t mean He will
Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child
(Quote source here.)
As noted above, Philippians 4:6 is immediately followed by verse 7: Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Paul gives us a major revelation in this verse [verse 6] with how we can be anxious for nothing with the words that come right after he initially makes this statement. Notice he says that we are to make all of our requests known to God in prayer–and if we do, then the peace of God can enter into us to guard our hearts and minds through Jesus.
This is why Paul is using the words that the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” will now enter into you to guard your heart and mind from getting all worked up and out of control.
Once you go to God the Father in prayer to ask for His help to handle a serious problem or situation, then His peace will be able to start to flow into you.
And once His peace starts to flow into you, then you will feel His peace starting to calm you down–even right in the middle of the worse kind of storm cloud you could imagine yourself falling into.
I have heard testimony after testimony of people who have fallen into the worse kinds of storm clouds you could possibly imagine–and then all of sudden they would feel the peace of God come into them after they had prayed and committed the problem into the hands of God.
They had no idea how long it would take for God to resolve the problem. They had no idea as to how God was going to handle the problem. All they knew was that God had heard their prayer and that He would now handle the problem for them.
Once this fact was really grabbed by their minds and their spirits, then the peace of God was able to enter into them. And once the peace of God entered into them, then they were able to calm down and be anxious for nothing–exactly like what this verse is telling us to learn how to do.
So in one powerful and profound verse, God is telling us to be anxious for nothing–but at the same time He is telling us exactly how to be able to do this–and that is by going to Him in prayer and telling Him exactly what you will need to handle the problem, and then fully commit and surrender the problem into His hands for His direct handling.
Once you have fully surrendered the entire problem into God’s hands, then He will release His peace into your mind and emotions so He can calm you down and help you to be anxious for nothing. (Quote source here.)
After these two verses, in the next two verses (Philippians 4:8-9), we are reminded to meditate on these things:
Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.
I’ll end this post with the words from Philippians 4:6-9 taken from The Message Bible:
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.
Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.
So, pray about absolutely everything, with thanksgiving, and…
Be anxious . . .
For . . .
Nothing . . . .
YouTube Video: “My God is Still the Same” by Sanctus Real: