The Power of Please and Thank You
By Deborah Wuehler, Senior Editor
“Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6–7)
In this season of Thanksgiving, let’s turn our attention for a few minutes away from the million things we have to be thankful for (they are obviously abundant and evident) and turn our attention to the way in which we should pray with thanksgiving. As you know, we are to give thanks even when it seems our lives are falling apart, as well as when we can see the manifold blessings of God poured out in our lives.
Some of the first words we teach our little toddlers are please and thank you, and yet we often have to remind them to say those words, sometimes for years. In fact, we expect these words to accompany their every request. These words represent more than good manners; they also reflect a spirit of humility,because those words acknowledge that everything we need or want from someone else is not ours for the taking, at least not without showing proper respect for the owner’s rights, as well as appropriate gratitude.
In the same way, the Lord would have us acknowledge Him as the giver of all good things. He would have us come to Him and ask for our daily bread and the water that will satisfy our thirsty souls. He deserves our own “please” and “thank you” and promises that if our please and thank you are offered, He will offer something we wanted more than the physical sustenance. I want to show you the power of the words please and thank you.
From Philippians 4:6-7, the “please” would be wrapped up in this phrase: “by prayer and supplication . . . let your requests be made known unto God.” This is where we pour out our hearts about the things that capture our attention at the moment. We say, “Please, God . . .” for the friends that are sick, the finances that are low, the house that is in foreclosure, the dog that is dying, the neighbor that is moving, the child that is rebelling, the heart that is breaking. In regard to all the things that press us and call us and sometimes seem to crush us, we can, by prayer and supplication, make our requests known to the living God, who is faithful. We know He hears us, and we know that He desires to bless us and provide for us and heal us.
Or. . . do we really know that?
I believe if we are doubtful and unsettled and don’t really know that our God is able to take care of all things that pertain to us, it is because we have not come to Him with our requests. We’ve skipped the “please” part, and He is waiting for us to remember Him. Perhaps we go to our husbands or our friends or our Facebook page first. But there is no real peace until we humble ourselves and come to Him, acknowledging that He is the one who provides even the very air that we breathe. He provides the healthy lungs to hold that air. He provides the oxygen that sustains our very life. And yet often we look to another who provides nothing but hot air—not words of life.
Why do we think we can go to anyone else for anything else? It would be like our children entrusting some deep thoughts or feelings with someone else and not us. We would be hurt, thinking that they don’t trust us with the core of who they are. We would be hurt because we desire an intimate relationship with our children. After all, we’ve invested so much love and time and energy in them, haven’t we? In like manner, our heavenly Father desires intimacy with each of us. He created this whole earth and its universe for our pleasure and sustenance and wrapped it all around a relationship of love and trust with us. And yet, frequently we go to others first when we have needs. May we humbly come back to Him with our “please.”
We teach our children to say “thank you” to everyone, for anything, in any circumstance. And, that is the right thing to do. After all, they are children, and they should show honor and respect and kindness to all with whom they come in contact. We would be embarrassed (and I have had lots of experience in that department) if our children were so rude as to forget their manners or not even think to be thankful. But even worse than that is a child who demonstrates a complaining heart, a selfish heart that only wants more, a child who does not even think about all the things that he should be thankful for.
Before we chide our children for their natures, let’s look a little closer to home. Many times we get our “please” down just right but forget the rest. We say our prayers, laying out all our requests, and we leave it at that. That’s the end of the matter: “Here’s the list, God, and don’t forget anything, please.”
I have heard it said that if our spouses treated us in that manner, our marriages wouldn’t last. Can you imagine if the only communication you received from your spouse were a list of things to do for him or her? The end. Nothing else. Perhaps we think about all the good things about our spouses yet never verbalize anything but requests. If that were the case, we actually would not have a relationship.
You will never have a close relationship with God if all you do is give Him lists of requests. Stopping after the “please” step is inadequate. We must also practice the “thank you” part, for it is with our thanks that we acknowledge who God is. It’s more than mannerly gratitude; it is thanksgiving, which leads to worship.
Let’s look at the Greek meaning of the word thankfulness found in Philippians 4:4:
Thankfulness, thanksgiving. From eucharistos; gratitude; actively, grateful language (to God, as an act of worship)—thankfulness, (giving of) thanks(-giving).1
When we are dictating our lists of needs with our “please, God,” we must also be giving our worship to Him with our “thank you, God!” As we choose to give thanks, a spirit of heaviness cannot prevail in our spirits. We must resist the temptation to indulge a complaining, selfish heart. When we are tempted to indulge in self-pity or selfishness of any kind, we must shift the focus from our feelings and our temporal needs to the very God of all gods, who meets every need according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus. (See Philippians 4:19.)
As we make that shift in focus, our hearts rejoice. We begin to see that our problems are small because our God is so big! Let us heed the instruction of Psalm 34:1: “I will bless the Lord at all times: his praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul shall make her boast in the Lord: the humble shall hear thereof, and be glad. O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” When we magnify something, we see the bigness of that thing. As we magnify the Lord, we perceive His greatness, and all we can do is bless and praise and exalt His name. “Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised; and his greatness is unsearchable.” (Psalm 145:3)
If we put the magnifying glass over our problem, we magnify it. Shifting that magnifying glass upward shows us that our problem is nothing compared to the greatness of our God. However, as we begin to say “thank you” along with our lists of “please,” we begin to recognize the very greatness of our God and humble ourselves before Him. We come into a relationship with God rather than merely handing Him a list and hitting the road.
Preceding these instructions, though, are these words: “Be careful [anxious] for nothing . . . .”(Philippians 4:6) Why should we not be anxious? After all, there is so much to be anxious about! If we know our God, if we spend time thanking Him for who He is, then there is no need to be anxious. When we know we can lay our burdens down before that Someone who has already picked them up and put His answer into motion, we realize it is futile and unproductive to be anxious. We know He cares for us, and we know that He is concerned about what concerns us. This is actually a command: “Be anxious for nothing.” This verse is what we call an imperative. In fact, in verse 6 alone we have two imperatives: “Be anxious for nothing . . .” and “ . . . let your requests be made known to God.” Imperatives, by definition, are commands.
What if our children said something like this: “Mom, I’m really worried about when we are going to eat again. What if we don’t have enough food to eat again? What if the food we get is something bad for us? What if the store closes down and we can’t get any food? What if everyone forgets to grow the food?” We would think our children were pretty silly, and we would tell them to get a grip and stop worrying, and we would assure them that we wouldn’t let them starve. However, we tend to reason along the same lines about any manner of “adult” problems.
Don’t be anxious; God won’t let you starve. God will do what He desires to do with you and for you and in you. “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” (Romans 11:36) “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13) You can rest in Him. When we do, let’s see what He does.
When we lay it all down in prayer and begin worshiping and thanking God, He promises us something. Before you start thinking that He promises to answer your specific prayers according to the way you think things would be best, it would be best to think again. Better than that, let’s look at what God says: “And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” So, when we are not anxious, but are praying “please” and worshiping “thank you,” then He promises peace—not merely a fleeting reprieve from turmoil, but the peace that surpasses our understanding of how things are operating right now. It’s a peace that keeps our hearts and minds; that is, it doesn’t let them wander down the path of doubt and fear.
To stay in peace, we need to stay in prayer and thanksgiving and stay out of anxiousness. It is a peace far greater than the peace we receive when we get an answer to prayer that lines up with what we had in mind; it is a peace that sustains us through the seeming quietness of God on some issues in our lives. A peace that passes the temporal relief of anxiety, a peace that reminds us that the greatness of God can handle the miniscule concerns of mere men. A deep, sustaining, life-giving peace based on a trust in the God who hears and delivers.
“I sought the Lord, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears. They looked unto him, and were lightened: and their faces were not ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:4–6)
God promises peace for our harried and active and confused and anxious and overworked minds through Jesus Christ. Unintelligible, incomprehensible peace—all because we remembered our “please” and “thank you.”
Deborah Wuehler is the Senior Editor for TOS, participating author in The Homeschool Minute, wife to Richard, and mom to eight gifts from heaven. She loves digging for buried treasure in the Word, reading, writing, homeschooling, and dark chocolate!
1. Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, http://strongsnumbers.com/greek/2169.htm, accessed September 6, 2010.
Copyright 2010. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, Fall 2010. Used with permission. Visit them at Schoolhouse Store, where shipping is always free!