Paul starts this admonition out in the negative: “Be anxious for nothing” (4:6a). While this admonition is given independent of the state of the nearness of the Lord, it is nevertheless related. It is because of the nearness of the Lord that anxiety is not necessary. Again this admonition is emphatic, thus a command. In the Greek text nothing is the first word, putting it in the emphatic position. This emphasizes that the statement is negative, and is to be stopped. The negative used with the present imperative indicates that the Philippians had been anxious, but is now urged to stop being so. The word for anxious are the Greek word merimnao and means to worry or be anxious. Lightfoot says it means “anxious harassing care.” It speaks of unreasonable anxiety, especially about things out of our control. Muller points out: “To care is a virtue, but to foster cares is sin, for each anxiety is not trust in God, but a trusting in oneself, which comes to inward suffering, fears, and worry.” Some one once said that “Worry is the misuse of imagination.” Paul is echoing what Jesus taught in his Sermon on the Mount (cf. Matthew 6:25-29). He is also echoing the Old Testament (cf. Psalm 55:22). This admonition applies to believers in all dispensations. It is a divine principle of relationship. God’s people are not to worry. It is true in the past, true in the present, and true in the future. Now it is one thing to forbid worry and another thing not to worry. However, Paul gives the solution.
“But” (alla) is a conjunction which here sets up a contrast or antithesis. Instead of being unduly anxious, they are “in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God” (Phil. 4:6b). Instead of worry, Paul tells us to hand over our concerns to God. If we worry we are keeping the problem in our own hands, not God’s, thereby assuming it ourselves. Paul puts the remedy for worry in a positive injunction to pray. Paul does not say as modern psychologists will: “Do not waste your time and energy on something that is out of your control.” This is acceptance. We all agree with the psychologist truth; but it fails to give a solution. Acceptance is not a solution to worry. “The cure for worry is not inaction.” Paul instead calls for an action that offers the solution. It is prayer and the power of God to comfort and give assurance. It is both a positive and active solution. It sets forth “the divine remedy for a troubled soul.”
The characteristics of the action:
- Its situation—“in everything.” This is in contrast to “in nothing” above. “In everything” we are to pray. It speaks of praying in every situation, every circumstance, and in all things. This is reinforced by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:17-18.
- Its nature—“prayer and supplication…let your request be made known to God.” The nature is threefold: (1) Prayer (proseuche), is the general term for prayer indicating worship and adoration. (2) Supplication (deesis) is also an element of prayer or entreaty. Supplication is a progressive step of prayer; it turns from the general to the particular. It is a humble and earnest asking of God for a need arising out of want or circumstance. This can be general such as grace, wisdom, encouragement, help or faith. (3) Request is even more particular, for a specific item that is needed. The antidote to worry is to communicate the need to God and empower Him to work it out. This is true in all areas of life—spiritual, financial, and everyday living. We are to “let our request be made known….” The Greek verb is gnorizoestho, meaning to reveal, declare, or present. It is an imperative (voice of a command), but the expression is unusual because the Greek word suggests that God is unaware of their request. However, that is not the case as indicated by Matthew 6:32. Rather, it is used not because God is unaware, but because of two things: (1) God is aware of them, but they have not yet been handed over to Him. In the request, the believer is casting this care upon God (cf. 1 Peter 5:7). He is giving the responsible to God. (2) He is acknowledging his dependence upon God. God is not waiting for knowledge of the situation; He is waiting for the acknowledgement by the believer of his dependence upon Him in the situation. The word is used because He is unaware of their acknowledgement until such acknowledgment is made.
- Its accompaniment—“with thanksgiving.” Prayer is to be exercised thankfully. Paul regularly uses to denote gratitude that finds outward expression in thanksgiving. It is to be our attitude of heart, as well as our expression in prayer. It is an expression that recognizes God’s ability and His grace for what He has done and is going to do. It is an expression of gratitude for His faithfulness. Thanksgiving looks back to His provisions in the past and expresses gratitude. It expresses two things: (1) Glory to God (2 Cor. 4:15). (2) Confidence in God’s continued working on our behalf, based on the past. May I dare to say that Paul reminds us of this because when we get in certain situations we forget for worry can blind us; thus we must make a deliberate effort to do so. Why? Because it is a part of prayer. It is a part of adoration to God. We must enter His gates with thanksgiving. It is a part of our approach to God. Prayer is primarily an act of worship. Worship is a product of a thankful heart. We must be reminded that the antidote to worry is primarily worshipful prayer and then making our requests known.
- Its promise—“And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:7). Making our request known by worshipful prayer results in the peace of God. Hendricksen says, “Peace is the smile of God reflected in the soul of the believer.” The peace of God is different than peace with God. Peace with God is a result of our justification (Romans 5:1). However, the peace of God comes from our relationship with God. It comes through our communication with Him by prayer. It is a term found only here in the New Testament. The conjunction and (kai) introduces the result or the consequence of making our request to God. The term peace is used in the sense of tranquility. This peace is not passive, but active in two ways: (1) It “surpasses all comprehension.” Surpasses is the Greek word hyperecho, a compound word—hyper (above or over) and echo (to have). It means to have over, stand out above, to surpass, or to go over the top. It speaks of going beyond a boundary or overflowing a container. In this case it goes beyond understanding. Some translate it as “transcends.” This is not simply a comparison between peace and the intellect; rather it carries the idea on the uniqueness of peace that goes beyond our understanding. We cannot fully understand or comprehend the peace of God, but we can experience it. (2) It “will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” The background of this phrase is military. The word guard is phroureo meaning to guard, or keep watch over. It was used for a military detachment to stand on guard duty (cf. 2 Cor. 11:32). It speaks of a promise of protection. The Bible uses the word to speak of the divine protection of God over His people (cf. 1 Peter 1:5). The object of this protection is the heart and mind of the believer. Lloyd-Jones says,
It conjures up a picture. What will happen is that this peace of God will walk round the ramparts and towers of our life. We are inside, and the activities of the heart and mind are producing those stresses and anxieties and strains from the outside. But the peace of God will keep them all out and we ourselves inside will be at perfect peace. It is God’s who does it.
 O’Brien, NIGTC: PHILIPPIANS, 491.
 Lightfoot, PHILIPPIANS, 163.
 Muller, NICNT: PHILIPPIANS, 141.
 In the margin of my Bible, author unknown.
 Hendriksen, NTC: PHILIPPIANS, 195.
 Gromacki, STAND UNITED, 179.
 O’Brien, NIGNT: PHILIPPIANS, 493.
 Hendricksen, NTC: PHILIPPIANS, 198.
 However there is a parallel expression, “the peace of Christ” in Col. 3:15.
 NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.
 O’Brien, NIGTC: PHILIPPIANS, 498.
 Lloyd-Jones, THE LIFE OF PEACE, 175.