Tom Hayes


Philippians 4:6

Have you ever examined a rope? What seems to be a simple cord is actually a complex arrangement of other twisted cords. In fact, most strong ropes are made up of at least three smaller strands of rope. Usually equal in size and strength, they are wrapped and wound together, each one around the other, constituting one adequate line of strength. This strength is what Solomon referred to when he wrote, "a threefold cord is not quickly broken" (Eccl. 4:12).

Ropes were made of various materials in Bible days. The strongest ropes were usually "made of strips of camel hide, as still by the Bedouins. The finer sorts were made of flax, Isa. 19:9, and probably of reeds and rushes" (F. N. Peloubet). A rope might be used to hold a shepherd's tent in position, to lead an unpredictable animal, to tie off a boat, or to help lift a heavy object. Jesus platted a rope to make a whip (see John 2:15), and ropes were a vital part of sailing (see Acts 27:32).

In the text before us, we are made aware of "The Strong Rope Of Prayer." We are admonished to "Be careful for nothing; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God" (Phil. 4:6). The three different strands of the rope are: "prayer," "supplication," and "requests." Together, they form an effective cord that is used mightily in the economy of God.

Let's examine the strands that make up "The Strong Rope Of Prayer." While it is true that all three of them greatly resemble, there are some differences, and a seeming progression in the revelation of truth. As one has said, "The three words seem to move from the general to the particular and emphasize the importance of believers being specific in their prayers" (Harold J. Berry).

1. The General Process Of Prayer

The first strand in the rope of prayer is the Godward movement, or the general process of prayer itself. Any movement in God's direction is good, and prayer is often the means of that movement. According to the Scriptures, movement toward man, or dependency upon ourselves or others, is always movement toward spiritual weakness (see Psa. 108:12). But, Godward movement, or movement in His direction, is movement towards Divine sufficiency, strength, and blessing.

That is the idea set forth in the first of the three prayer words in our text. The term "prayer" (Gr. proseuche) is the basic New Testament word for prayer and simply means "prayer addressed to God." Sometimes, it describes a place of prayer, or worship (see Matt. 21:13), thus signifying its wide usage. One great writer of our day has pointed out that "It carries the idea of adoration, devotion, and worship" (Warren W. Wiersbe). Basically, it represents the reverent approach of a needy heart. The mood of the soul is one of the great strengths of prayer. We know that there is no strength in mere words spoken into the air. It is the attitude of the heart that is important. What good is a collection of well-arranged phrases if we are not in the right frame of mind? What good are petitions if the petitioner doesn't have a prepared heart? May we continually school ourselves to properly approach the throne of grace!

2. The Genuine Pursuits Of Prayer

The second word in our text, which is another great strand in the rope of prayer, is "supplication" (Gr. deesis). Going a step farther than the first term, this word has to do with "seeking, or entreating" God. It comes from the Greek word deomai, which is often translated "beseech" in the New Testament (see Luke 9:38). Although it is also used to describe man entreating man as well (see Acts 8:34), whether in human relationships or in divine matters, the concept is always that of sincerity and earnestness.

Perhaps, the best illustration of the genuine pursuits of prayer is that of Elijah. Because of Israel's idolatrous practices, he prayed that it wouldn't rain, and it didn't rain for three and a half years. Then, he prayed again that it would rain, and it poured! In connection to these events, James wrote, " The effectual fervent prayer (deesis) of a righteous man availeth much" (5:16). To say the least, there is strength and power in the earnest, genuine pursuit of a pure heart.

It is wonderful to move Godward, and to approach our God with a prepared heart or with a spirit of reverence. However, we must not stop in the outer court of the temple with our heads bowed low. We must enter into the holy place with "sincerity and truth" (1 Cor. 5:8), in earnestness of soul, and entreat the Holy One. We are not called upon to sweat great drops of blood, as did our Savior in the Garden of Gethsemane, but we are called upon to seek the Lord with our whole hearts (see Deut. 4:29; Jer. 29:13).

3. The Graphic Petitions Of Prayer

You will find all three prayer words in our text are, at one time or another, associated with petitioning God. Jesus used the first one when He said, "And all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer (proseuche), believing, ye shall receive" (Matt. 21:22). Earlier in this Epistle, the second term, translated "supplication" in our verse, is rendered "request" as Paul wrote, "Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request (deesis) with joy" (Phil. 1:4).

It is this last strand in the rope, however, that predominantly emphasizes the petitions of prayer. The word "requests" (Gr. aitema) means "something asked, or a petition." One devoted student of Greek words pointed out that it relates to "the objects asked for, namely, the things requested" (Kenneth S. Wuest). The term takes us beyond the general approach, and the sincere attitude of prayer, and introduces us to the details, the specifics, and the particulars of prayer.

In the text, Paul has already told us that we are to bring "everything" to the Lord in prayer. Now, with this special word, we are further admonished to petition our God about every matter. Some prayers may seem trivial in our eyes, but the little requests are just as welcome at the throne of grace as the big impressive ones. While it is true that the Lord is not interested in repeated phrases and jargon (see Matt. 6:7), He listens to those who dare to share their hearts with Him.

Remember how Rahab let down the spies with a rope? (see Josh. 2:15). That scarlet cord was not only the evidence of her faith, but the assurance of her future, as well. In the hour of Jericho's destruction, she was delivered and brought into new realms of fellowship and hope with God's people. Similarly, through "The Strong Rope Of Prayer," we are linked to the realities of faith and the operations of God in this world. May we get a new grip on this rope and watch God work effectually in our lives.