“Do not be anxious, but in everything, with prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”
Are we to suggest that God does not know our needs before we “make them known”? Certainly not! Jesus says that our Father in heaven knows our needs even before we ask him (Matthew 6:8). No, the emphasis on the making our needs known to God is not on informing the omniscient one, the emphasis is on how we present ourselves before the King of the Universe.
Paul writes that we first must not be anxious in our manner. Why not anxious? Why shouldn’t we be worriers over every little thing? The answer is that we are adopted by the God of the universe who knows our needs and has the power to see those needs met. It is the pagan who has the right to worry, for their gods cannot act or move or hear their prayers.
Thus, we take our prayers to God in a way that is not anxious, but trusting in his divine hand, his divine character, and his divine goodness and we lift them before the Lord of heaven. Paul uses the phrase, “prayer and supplication,” which is a common phrase for the Apostle (see Ephesians 6:18;1 Timothy 5:5). Supplication speaks of specific entreaties or pleas for help before God and prayers speaks in a more broad and general way. The key is, that with this humble reliance upon our God, we are to lift our cares before him.
The thing, of course, that many struggle with is the anxiety part. How we often ask God for things in such a way that we would not want our children asking us for a need or a concern that they might have. How often we come across (if we look at our prayers objectively) as if we are doubting God’s goodness or power or both. How often we try and make demands rather than being still and having confidence that God is, well, that he is who he says he is (Psalm 46:10). Beloved, do not worry or be anxious and do not allow that anxiety to become part of your prayer life…instead, let your prayer life be such that it takes away your anxiety because you are assured of the one to whom you speak.
“For I know that this will turn out for my salvation through your supplications and through the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,”
The confidence of Paul in the prayers of the Saints and the strength of the Spirit should not surprise us much as we arrive here in verse 19. Indeed, as Christians, how we rely on the prayers of others. That said, I wonder whether we genuinely pray and make supplications to the Lord on behalf of those who are in distress, in chains, or just in ministry…the leadership of the church that we make wise and Godly decisions when such are set before us.
What is quite significant, though, about this verse is Paul’s use of the phrase, “the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” This is the only spot in the Bible where the Spirit is spoken of in this way. We find the phrase, “The Spirit of God,” often enough (25 times), but this is something that stands out, though it should not give us pause. The reality is that Jesus is God and thus it is a natural linguistic transition to make from saying “the Spirit of God” to “the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” At the same time, this verse does provide us with an apologetic reminder that Jesus Christ is fully God. We live in a day and an age where many are trying to make less of Jesus than he is, making him look to be some sort of demigod or divine human, seeing him as created and not part of the Triune Godhead. Here, Paul would seem to refute such an idea, reminding us that the Holy Spirit is just as much connected with the Son as he is with the Father.
But also make note of the language applied to the Spirit here…it is the Spirit who strengthens, who provides for Paul, who fortifies him in his time of need. How we need to be reminded sometimes that we do not do things in our own strength as believers, but what we do we must do in reliance on the strength of the Holy Spirit. He empowers, we bring nothing to the table other than obedience…and that is something the Spirit works in us as well. There is no room for personal pride, folks, only pride in our Savior, Christ Jesus.