*Posted by Joe Wooddell
Following is a summary of a message I preached at a Criswell College chapel on October 9, 2012. (At some point the message will be available here. Till then, readers may listen to other available messages by clicking the link.)
Philippians 4:6-7 basically says not to worry about anything, but to pray about everything; and when we do God’s peace guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Years ago I was teaching on prayer, God’s sovereignty, and God’s knowledge of our future, when a girl on the front row burst out in tears and said, “You’re ruining my prayer life!” When I asked how, she responded, “If God knows every future detail, why should I pray?!”
Here are four good reasons to pray: (1) We are commanded in Scripture to pray; (2) Jesus and other exemplary, biblical characters prayed; (3) Prayer cultivates and nurtures an ongoing and intimate relationship with God; and (4) Our prayers end up constituting part of God’s overall plan for how the world goes.
At the start of Philippians 4, God uses Paul to tell us that because of what Christ did and how things are going to turn out in the end, we should stand firm. God also tells us to live in harmony with one another, and to let our gentleness be evident in the face of disharmony. We are then told to “rejoice,” a wise thing to do in unharmonious circumstances. Finally, we are told not to worry about anything, but to pray about everything. My college pastor (Rob Jackson) put it this way almost twenty years ago: “Use worry as a prompter to pray.” He was absolutely right.
There are all sorts of things about which we could and often do worry. We are anxious people, always worrying about money, relationships, sins we have committed, the future, etc. We should take all these things to God in prayer. In fact, we should do so “without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:17). In that 1 Thessalonians passage God tells us through Paul that God is a “God of peace” (v.23). When we pray – especially when we pray about everything, without ceasing – we are much more at peace. Isn’t that what we want?
The Philippians 4 passage also says we should do all this by “prayer and supplication” (actually asking God to meet our needs) “with thanksgiving.” We must be grateful. Each time we ask, we should also prayerfully be grateful for how God has already blessed us. Then we are told to let our “requests” (specific things) be made known to God. It is fine – in fact we are instructed – to ask God to meet specific needs. As we do, He may or may not answer according to what we want. In the end, we must pray (as Jesus did in Gethsemane) “Thy will be done.”
Scripture is replete with examples of anxious people who prayed. We also are anxious. We also should pray. We should pray without ceasing: driving, walking into work, lying down or rising up, shopping, playing, serving. As we pray God’s peace floods the deepest part of who we are (our hearts), as well as that area of our consciousness where pros and cons are tallied up, where decisions are debated, and where we think through how to live our lives (our minds). These deep regions of our lives need the peace of God. It is a peace that “passes understanding.” That is, the only explanation is that God is the one who gives it, and He does so in ways only He can. As He gives this peace and guards our hearts and minds “in Christ Jesus,” we may be confident that we will be better equipped to honor and glorify Him.