The meaning of Philippians 4:6 encourages us to put away worry, anxiety and fear by using prayer as a weapon. In this Philippians 4:6 devotional study we will examine what it means to be careful about nothing and learn how to pray in a way that will bring relief to anxiety.
Before we delve into the study, let’s read the verse from three versions:
Be anxious for nothing Bible verse
Be anxious for nothing NKJV
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;
Be anxious for nothing KJV
Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.
Be anxious for nothing NIV
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
Philippians 4:6 meaning in context
The book of Philippians was written by the Apostle Paul while he was imprisoned in Rome.
On his second missionary journey, Paul founded the church in Philippi, hence the name Philippians.
Are you familiar with the story of Lydia? She is thought to be the first convert to Christianity in Philippi. Her home was likely where the very first Philippian congregation met for worship services.
Paul had a deep love for this church because they were immeasurably kind to him.
His letter to them (what we know as the book of Philippians) was one of encouragement. Paul wanted to encourage them to stay on the path of serving Christ no matter how difficult life got.
Be anxious for nothing meaning
With Paul being in prison, you would think that he would be worried and nervous.
Not so at all!
He had such a firm assurance that no matter his fate, things would work out for the glory of God.
Paul shared this principle with his Philippian church friends by telling them not to be anxious.
Let’s examine this word so we can understand more of what Paul was wanting them to get from his letter.
What does the word anxious mean in Philippians 4:6?
The Greek word for anxious that Paul uses here is merimnao. It means to distract or to draw in different directions.
Say you work as a secretary. The phone on your desk is ringing off the hook, a customer just walked into your office and is glaring at you, your boss is yelling from his office about something he needs right this minute, your computer screen is displaying an email captioned URGENT then your cell phone starts to vibrate from an incoming call…it’s the lady from your baby’s preschool, again.
Are you getting the feeling of merimnao? How do you even think about God in a moment like this when life is pulling at you from so many directions?
The members of the Philippian church were worried about many things. One of them was Paul’s situation. They were worried about what would become of Paul since he was in prison.
This is what he says to them:
I rejoiced greatly in the Lord that at last you renewed your concern for me. Indeed, you were concerned, but you had no opportunity to show it. Philippians 4:10 NIV
In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he encouraged them not to be distracted or allow themselves to be pulled in different directions by anything, especially not his situation of being in prison.
But Paul didn’t just tell them what not to do. Paul gave them an alternative.
What was the alternative?
That’s where the next piece of the verse comes in…
But in everything by prayer and supplication with meaning
Instead of worrying, Paul tells what to pray and supplicate. Paul’s antidote for worry is prayer.
Notice that Paul uses two words here: prayer and supplication. How are these words different?
What does the word supplication mean in Philippians 4:6?
The word prayer is used to describe general conversation with God. The Greek word that Paul uses is about devotion and worship.
On the other hand, supplication turns up the intensity of prayer. The Greek word for supplication is deesis. This word is used to describe a personal and very specific request that is based on an extremely urgent and desperate need.
When you are worried because you have certain needs, that is absolutely not the time to pray general prayers of “Oh Lord, please help me”.
What are the details of this thing that is worrying you? What exactly do you need God to help you with?
This is what God is interested in hearing from you. The true, raw, honest details.
Of course, it is not that God does not already know the details. But here is the thing you need to know:
One of the purposes of this kind of prayer is to deepen your relationship with God. As you pour out the truest, deepest, most descriptive need that your heart is longing for, it does something to you and your relationship with God.
Which takes me to the next part of this verse.
What does it mean “with thanksgiving present your requests to God”?
Paul tells the Philippians to present your request to God (NIV). Other versions put it this way: let your request be made known to God (ESV).
The phrase make known is the Greek word gnorizo. It describes a repetitive, habitual act of revealing information.
When we put this with the idea of supplication, we realize the full extent of Paul’s advice to the Philippians.
He is telling them to be extremely detailed, intensely personal, and unapologetically repetitive in talking to God about the things that worry them, about the things in which they find themselves in urgent need.
So, tell God exactly what you need and don’t stop talking to Him about it in great detail.
Need a spouse? What are the most important God-inspired non-negotiables?
Need a job? Where do you want it? Which company? What working hours and salary?
Need a home? What price range? How many bedrooms? What amenities and fixtures?
Need spiritual growth? How do you want God to help you? By pointing you to a resource? By waking you up for prayer? By helping you find a group?
(Sidenote: The world calls this manifesting but it’s not new. It’s a concept from the Bible that acknowledges our God as sovereign.)
God doesn’t really need the details.
But, you do…
Here is why.
What does “with thanksgiving” mean in Philippians 4:6
Paul tells the Philippines that when they tell God exactly what is going on with them and exactly what they need, they should not forget to add gratitude to their prayer.
Here is the reality about the one thing or the many things that worry you:
Only God has the full, detailed picture of the situation. No matter how much detail you supply to God in prayer, it’s only the details that you can see.
But, God has the entire picture in full view. And He probably has way more in store for you than you are actually asking for.
You see, as you pray detailed prayers, your friendship with God grows. That’s why you need the detailed prayers and God does not.
Think about how your earthly friendships develop and thrive. Women famously divulge extremely intimate details with each other and through that they create very deep bonds.
It is the same with our relationship with God.
What does this have to do with worry?
Let’s say you are burdened by something. You go to your BFF and tell all. You describe the situation you are in, what led to it, how you truly feel about all aspects of it. What you really wish and desire for the outcome of the situation.
You just put it all out there. The good. The bad. The ugly.
How do you feel after you have done this?
Relieved? Light? Clear?
After this conversation with your BFF, you get to walk away with the benefits, right?
When we practice supplication and making known our requests, this is exactly what happens between us and God.
Here is one of my favorite quotes about prayer: Prayer does not bring God down to us, but brings us up to Him. (E.G. White)
As you get closer to God, as your friendship with Him deepens through your detailed prayers, something happens inside of you.
Over time, you will become more secure in the fact that God already has way more details than you do and He knows what is truly best for you.
Thankfulness, when added to supplication, enhances your trust factor with God.
When you express gratitude to God, you are telling Him that:
(1) you are certain He is hearing your detailed requests, (2) you are confident He will answer your prayers and (3) whatever His answer looks like, it will be in your best interest.
All that should cause our worry to subside and eventually disappear. This is how prayer works as the antidote to worry.
What does Philippians 4:6 teach us about managing stress?
Can someone be anxious for nothing?
I think when we look around at the world, it is a great temptation to believe that it is impossible not to experience stress and anxiety.
God’s word is true.
Here are some ideas for using Philippians 4:6 to manage life stressors.
Develop a prayer plan and routine
When worry begins to take over, it’s definitely the time to bring your A game to your prayer life.
If you don’t have a prayer life, now is the time to become deliberate, intentional, and specific about your prayer routine.
If prayer is the antidote for worry, then there is simply no option here.
The truth is that many of us were not really taught how to have a successful prayer life. So, you may have to go on a journey of learning how to pray.
To begin, carve out time in your daily schedule for prayer. Decide on the exact time and place you will pray.
Then, go there and talk to God about what worries you. Don’t complain. Describe the details. Tell Him how you feel. Ask Him for solutions. Ask Him for exactly what you NEED, not want.
If you struggle to stay focused, you might try writing instead. I have some prayer journal templates that you can use to get started with prayer journaling.
Otherwise, get yourself a composition book and start writing an honest, heartfelt letter to God.
Don’t complicate the process and don’t delay. Your blood pressure depends on it.
Use gratitude exercises
Worry and anxiety can come about when we focus on what we do not have. They can also surface when we forget about how God has been alive and active in our lives in the past.
Paul says we are to give thanks. Gratitude exercises help us to refocus.
If you’re anxious, stop and trace God’s faithfulness in your life over time. Think back as far as you can remember. Or, remember your last miracle. What evidence comes to mind?
Now, grab your journal and write them down. Take some time to reflect on the evidence. Has God changed since then? How do you know?
Another exercise to try is to focus on what is going well right now in the situation that is causing your worry. As Paul sat in prison, look at what he says to the Philippians in his letter:
Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. Philippians 1:12
Paul’s worry was absent because he realized that even in the middle of an unpleasant situation, the call on his life was still being fulfilled.
As much as he was being robbed of his freedom, people were giving their lives to Jesus. God was getting the glory.
So, go to your journal again. Describe in paragraphs what good thing is happening in the middle of your worry. How do you see God moving?
Go on a journey of learning to really trust God
I will confess it: I struggle with trusting God.
But my struggle comes from somewhere specific: self-reliance.
I don’t have space to truly get into this here but I will say this – you can be a practicing Christian for decades and never truly trust God.
When you constantly try to solve your own problems. When you take things in your own hands and then go to God after it all falls apart.
When you are willing to disregard God’s will in favor of a solution that does not honor God. When you just keep going but never really stop to ask God what HE wants for you.
These are all signs that you do not really trust God.
Your prayers are not effective when you don’t trust God.
Here’s how you know…
So, you know that God will come through because He has done so many times before. But in the back of your mind, deep in your heart, you are still fretful.
Your heart races and your body tenses when you think about the situation. And this happens even when you have prayed.
If this is happening to you, Philippians 4:6 is yet to be fulfilled in your life (and mine too). But God and I are working on it.
For many of us, our Christianity is built almost completely on information and mental exercise but our emotions are not involved.
Go on a journey of trusting God. I mean, really trust Him. Work towards getting to a place where, when you pray, you walk away with freedom and assurance that God has your back, just like Hannah.
Your mental and emotional health will thank you for it.
Philippians 4:6 prayer
Here is a prayer to wrap up this study:
Heavenly Father, thank you for who you are. You are good and kind and you are worthy of being praised. Please forgive me for not trusting you as much as I should. Today, I desire to truly put away anxiety. Lord, please take me on a journey of learning to talk with you in deep, meaningful and authentic ways. I want to get to know you more. As you reveal yourself to me, please also give me what I need to truly trust you. Draw my heart on a daily basis to be more grateful for your movement in my life. Thank you for your grace towards me. In Jesus name, Amen.
Final words on the Philippians 4:6 meaning
The short message of Philippians 4:6 is that the antidote to anxiety is open, honest, detailed, repetitive prayers that express an urgent need and that is supported by our grateful hearts to our God who has our best interest at heart.
That’s it in a nutshell.
I pray that we will be deliberate about tackling the anxiety that is so easy to fall into nowadays. There is no shortage of problems in this world. The reality is that things will get much worse before Jesus comes to take us away from here.
But God has promised us peace (Philippians 4:7) if we refuse anxiety and embrace prayer and gratitude.
Where will you begin?