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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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I believe this verse describes the two simple aspects of prayer. Two sides to the same coin. Both are very similar but also distinct. Prayer can be seen in a broader sense that includes all of our communication with God. Luke 6:12 shows where Jesus went out into a mountain to pray and continued all night but the question is why? Was Jesus "petitioning" his father? Was he "requesting anything" or was he just simply "fellowshipping" and worshipping with his father? Jesus didn't need to pray as we do, he had the power to perform all that his father gave him authority to do but I believe that Jesus missed being in the presence of his father. We see prayer in this aspect as fellowship, communion and worship.. Now as it pertains to petitions, it mean to specifically request something of God. Paul says in Romans 10:1 his prayer and desire was specific, that Israel be saved! James mentions in James 5:17 that Elijiah was a man of like passion as we as he petitioned God to withhold the rain for three years.. Paul also mentions in Eph 1:16-18 that he didn't cease to "give thanks" and mention them in his prayers that God would grant them things pertaining to spiritual sight. Prayer is general worship thanksgiving that can also include petitions but to petition God means to specifically request and ask for something in perticular..

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Welcome to Stack Exchange, we are glad you are here. Please consider registering an account to fully take advantage of what this site has to offer. Also, be sure to check out the site tour and read up on how this site is a little different than other sites around the web. This is not a comment on the quality of your answer, but rather a standard welcome message. – ThaddeusB Nov 10 at 2:29
Welcome to Christianity.SE, and thanks for offering an answer. You do present a reasonable answer to the question, but I would make two suggestions: 1. Remove parts that aren't specifically about the difference between prayer and petition. 2. Provide some direct quotes either from the Bible or from Christian theologians to support your answer better. See: What makes a good supported answer? Meanwhile, I do hope you'll stick around, and browse some of the questions and answers here. – Lee Woofenden Nov 10 at 2:58

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