From the Word
4 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. 5 Let all men know your forbearance. The Lord is at hand. 6 Have no anxiety about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:4–7, RSV
Here Paul teaches us to cast our care upon God. Should anything transpire to give you care or anxiety, turn to God with prayer, with supplication, entreating him to accomplish for you all you would seek to effect by care. Do so in thankfulness; you have a God solicitous for you, to whom you may freely come with all your anxieties. Whoever does not so when misfortune befalls him, but endeavors to measure it by his reason and to overrule it by his counsel, and thus falls into anxiety—this man plunges himself into deep wretchedness, loses his joy and peace in God, and all to accomplish nothing. Of this fact we have daily testimony in our experience and in that of others. But let no one conclude that he will be utterly careless and rest upon God, making no effort, no exertion, not even resorting to prayer. Whoso adopts this course must soon fail and fall into anxiety. We must ever strive. Many care-engendering things befall us for the very purpose of driving us to prayer. Many things transpire which tend to create in us anxiety, but we must not let them make us overanxious. We must commit ourselves to God and implore his aid for our needs.
Prayer is made vigorous by petitioning; urgent by supplication; pleasing and acceptable by thanksgiving. Strength and acceptability combine to prevail and secure the petition. This, we see, is the manner of prayer practiced by the Church; the holy fathers in the Old Testament always offered supplication and thanks in their prayers. The Lord’s Prayer opens with praise and thanksgiving and the acknowledgment of God as Father. It earnestly presses toward him through filial love and a recognition of fatherly tenderness. For supplication this prayer is unequaled. Hence it is the sublimest and noblest prayer ever uttered.
These words of Paul beautifully spiritualize and explain the mystery of the golden censer of which Moses has written much in the Old Testament, detailing how the priests should burn incense in the temple. We are all priests and our prayers are censers. The golden vessel signifies the precious words of prayer; the live coals stand for thanksgiving for benefits in prayer; the ascending smoke is our faith, when we believe our appeal reaches God and is heard. We must not doubt that God hears us.
Luther, Martin, and John Sander. Devotional Readings from Luther’s Works for Every Day of the Year. Augustana Book Concern, 1915, pp. 440–42.