Thankful No Matter What

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God (Philippians 4:6).

“Don’t thank me yet.”

Ever had someone say that to you? Maybe you’ve said those words to somebody else. Those four words are an oft-used phrase that we throw around when a couple of circumstances are true. First, we’ve offered some kind of help, or we’ve promised to do some kind of favor. Second, the outcomes of what we have promised or what we intend to do are uncertain. Things might go well, or maybe not. Our promise might be carried out to completion, or maybe not.

“Don’t thank me yet” is basically another way of saying, “Let’s see what happens.”

Whenever we say that, we’re saying that thankfulness is directly connected to outcomes. Things go well, according to plan, and we’re thankful. Things go south, our plans get trashed, and our gratitude gets trashed as well.

As Paul coaches us on how to fight against our anxieties with prayer, he urges something different. He tells us to pray, making our requests known to God with thanksgiving. What exactly is Paul telling us to do?

A Typical Prayer Pattern

For many of us, a typical prayer pattern tends to leave a gap between the request we present to God, and the gratitude that we express to God. Here’s what this looks like in my own life.

I begin with a desire or a worry that gets offered to God as a request. Let’s say I’m interviewing for a job and I’m excited and hopeful and even anxious about what this could mean for my future and my family. I deliberately practice the words of Philippians 4:6 and let the worry become a prayer. “God, please help me to do well in this interview and please open this door of opportunity.”

And then I wait. I might wait for days or weeks before the scheduled interview, sometimes getting anxious about it but constantly turning that anxiety into more prayer, expressing my desire and presenting my requests to God. I will then wait for a while after the interview to hear whether I’ll be moving forward, or if I’m being offered the position.

Then, once the waiting is over, I give thanks – and the prayer of thanksgiving comes far easier if the outcome is what I wanted. If the outcome isn’t what I requested, I may manage to grumble a pious sounding prayer of gratitude for God’s perfect timing or something like that. But either way, the thanksgiving was tied to the outcome.

Don’t Wait

When Paul urges us to offer prayer and petitions with thanksgiving, he may simply be saying that prayers of thankfulness should be placed alongside our requests. Asking and gratitude should get equal billing. Sometimes we ask for things. But then at other times we also give thanks.

I’d like to suggest that Paul is saying something slightly different.

I believe Paul is telling us that thankfulness should be spoken to God in our prayers and petitions. In other words, don’t wait. Don’t wait to see what happens. Don’t tie your gratitude to outcomes. Even as you make your requests known to God, speak your words of thankfulness to God in that very moment, even that same breath.

When we do this we are saying to God, “God I don’t know what you will do, but I know you will do something, and I believe that whatever that something is will be good – even if it’s not what I want.”

Such a prayer is a deeply trusting prayer. And trust is the opposite of worry. Such a prayer is even a bold and courageous prayer. And boldness is the enemy of fear. Our thankfulness is not rooted in our circumstances or in our feelings. Rather, thankfulness is rooted in the character of God, affirming that God is good and worthy of our trust.

If you’re living in a period of uncertainty – a lack of clarity about some aspect of your life that continually baits you to anxious thoughts – then take a moment right now and pray. Say what you desire. Make your requests known to God.

And give thanks. Don’t wait. Live this day in the confidence that we can be thankful no matter what.


Far too often, O God, we are stingy with our gratitude. We know what we desire, and we are specific in our requests – but our gratitude gets delayed until an answer is clear. Forgive us for the thankfulness we withhold. Make us bold in our prayers that we might come to you as your children who freely ask and then humbly trust, knowing that you are at work for our good. We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.

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