In Philippians 4:6 Paul says “Do not be anxious about anything. Instead, in every situation, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, tell your requests to God” (NET). D. M. Lloyd-Jones noted that Paul was being specific with his order of words in this verse: prayer – petition (both with thanksgiving) – give your requests to God. Here’s Lloyd-Jones:
“[Paul] differentiates between prayer and supplication and thanksgiving. What does he men by prayer? This is the most general term and it means worship and adoration. If you have problems that seem insoluble, if you are liable to become anxious and overburdened, and somebody tells you to pray, do not rush to God with your petition. That is not the way. Before you make your requests known unto God, pray, worship, adore. Come into the presence of God and for the time being forget your problems. Do not start with them. Just realize that you are face to face with God. In this word ‘prayer’ the idea of being face to face is inherent in the very word itself. You come into the presence of God and you realize the presence and you recollect the presences – that is the first step always. Even before you make your requests known unto God you realize that you are face to face with God, that you are in His presence and you pour out your heart in adoration. That is the beginning.
But following prayer comes supplication. Now we are moving on. Having worshipped God because God is God, having offered this general worship and adoration, we come now to the particular, and the apostle here encourages us to make our supplications….”
I think perhaps Lloyd-Jones may have overstated the case. I don’t think that it’s always wrong to start a prayer with petition or request. For example, many Psalms start out with requests to God (e.g. Ps. 17, 69, 70, 86, etc.). And there are other places in Scripture where God’s people begin their cry to the Lord with a petition (Elijah on Mt. Carmel [1 Ki. 18:36]; see also Judges 6:6, Mt 15:25, etc.).
However, Lloyd-Jones’ point is a good and solid one to take to heart: when we are anxious, we should often start our prayers with praise and adoration. When worried, we should begin our prayers with worship and praise to put things in perspective: God is on the throne and he hear us for Christ’s sake. How can we be anxious if God (who loves us in Christ) is on his throne?
The above quote is found in Spiritual Depression, p 267.
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