How to Make Our Requests Known to God :: Gospel Fellowship Association Missions

How to Make Our Requests Known to God

Tim Berrey
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 Missionaries must know how to make their requests known to God. All Christians must, but missionaries especially must. Why? As one of my Filipino pastor friends says, “Missions is not difficult; it’s impossible!” With God, missions is a miracle about to happen. Without God, missions is a disaster certain to happen. This holy desperation creates its own unique set of anxieties. Can I learn the language? Am I communicating the Gospel clearly? What if no one in my village responds to the Gospel? Can I survive the heat (or cold)? How will living in a different culture affect my children? Will I run out of month before I run out of money? At the same time, our God has categorically commanded His children not to be anxious about anything (see Philippians 4:6).

Is that even possible? Yes! The God who has commanded us not to be anxious about anything has provided the counter command: let your requests be made known to God (NKJV). In addition, Philippians 4:6 includes four phrases that specify how to make our requests known to God: in everything, by prayer, by supplication, and with thanksgiving.

In Everything

The first phrase, “in everything,” suggests that in every circumstance of life there are potential anxieties that we need to turn into requests. The first step, then, toward making our requests known to God is to identify our specific anxieties—those concerns that could become anxieties. What exactly is weighing you down, keeping you awake at night, or robbing you of peace? Cut through the mental fog and be as specific (and honest) as you can!

By Prayer

Then bow in prayer before God about those anxieties. Used over 30 times in the New Testament (most often in Acts), the word “prayer” in Philippians 4:6 is the most general New Testament term for prayer. It encompasses every kind of prayer but especially the idea of approaching deity to make a request. It is a frank acknowledgement of one’s need, of one’s dependence upon, and one’s reliance on a Being greater and more capable than oneself. When, for example, Sennacherib threatened Jerusalem, King Hezekiah resorted to prayer: “Now because of this King Hezekiah and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried out to heaven” (2 Chronicles 32:20, NKJV).

By Supplication

The third instructive phrase, “by supplication” further encourages us toward specificity. We are to formulate specific petitions. A prominent Greek lexicon defines supplication as “an urgent request to meet a need.”1 This is the word the angel uses when he tells Zechariah that his prayer has been heard (Luke 1:13). Zechariah (and, no doubt, his wife) had urgently requested the Lord for a child. The effective, fervent supplication of a righteous person avails much (James 5:16). Sometimes, we ramble before the Lord in prayer, acknowledging our need of Him but not sure what we want Him to do. The word ”supplication” encourages us to formulate more exactly what it is we want God to do in the anxious situation where we find ourselves. David exemplifies this in Psalm 3. There are no petitions until verse 7. He cries out to the Lord about his crisis (vv. 1–2). He confesses his confidence in the Lord (vv. 3–6). It is not until verse 7 that he tells the Lord his specific twofold petition: Arise and Save. As you bow before the Lord in prayer, cut to the chase, “What exactly am I asking God to do?” That does not mean God always answers your specific petition with “yes.” Take Paul’s request regarding his thorn in the flesh as a case in point (2 Corinthians 12:8–9). But a specific petition makes a specific answer more obvious when it comes, and the pathway forward becomes clearer.

With Thanksgiving

Finally, make your petitions known to God “with thanksgiving.” Rather than give way to a culture of complaining, Christians give thanks in everything—including potentially anxious circumstances and situations where they need to formulate specific petitions. Make your petitions known to God with the confidence that your God will answer your petition according to His “glorious riches in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19). That He who gave you His son will freely give you all things (Romans 8:32). That it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom (Luke 12:32). That if earthly fathers give good gifts, how much more does your Father in heaven (Luke 11:11–13). You can be thankful in advance before the answer to your petition even comes. David, in Psalm 3, confesses his ability to sleep (vv. 5–6) even before he gets to his petitions in verse 7!

One of my missionary colleagues used to advise the following (somewhat facetiously): take a sheet of paper and write in big letters at the top “Worry List.” Then, write down below all your worries. Be sure to be exhaustive; you would not want to forget any! When you are finished, cross out the word “Worry” and write in its place, “Prayer.” Your worry list is now your prayer list. What you will find, he would then assert, is that after a while, you will cross out the word “Prayer,” and you will replace it with the word, “Praise.” Through prayer, your worry list has become your praise list. That’s remarkably close to the biblical sequence we find in Philippians 4:6-7: the pathway from anxiety to peace is prayer.


1 William Arndt et al., A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000), 213.