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Philippians 4:6 uses two words, possibly implying a difference between prayer and petition. Can someone explain what this difference is?

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

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2 Answers 2

up vote 6 down vote accepted

A petition, just as it is in the political arena, is a request to a sovereign to take some action. Any request made of God, is thus a petition. Prayer, on the other hand, is any communication with God.

As such, all petitions presented to God are delivered as prayer, but there are forms of prayer (glorification, confession, thanksgiving) that are not petitions.

Going to the Greek, we see it is:

παντὶ τῇ προσευχῇ καὶ τῇ δεήσει μετὰ εὐχαριστίας

παντὶ = in all things

τῇ προσευχῇ = in prayer

καὶ = and

τῇ δεήσει μετὰ εὐχαριστίας = in petition with thanksgiving.

As such one could parse the verse as "in all things .. by prayer (petition with thanksgiving) present your requests to God" as an equally accurate rendering. This seems like an instrumental construction, meaning that petitions and thanksgiving would be how the prayer is done.

Again, in short - your petition is a kind of prayer, but it is not the only kind of prayer there is.

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Jesus, himself, answered your question in the Lord's prayer. 'In prayer' is 'in exaltation', calling into remembrance who you are praying to. He is Holy, He is sovereign, He is God, Most High. Call into remembrance his faithfulness to you in the past and the manifestation of his love for you by way of Jesus Christ. In this your faith begins to stir. Hence: OUR FATHER (his love), WHO IS IN HEAVEN (exaltation), HALLOWED BE THY NAME (exaltation), thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven (exaltation), give us this day our daily bread (supplication) and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us (supplication), lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil (supplication). Notice the three exaltations, as if to say HOLY, HOLY, HOLY as found in the book of Isaiah. End with your words of Thanksgiving.

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So, what then is the difference between prayer and petition? –  LCIII Sep 8 at 19:36

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