In His last discourse with His disciples before His arrest and crucifixion, our Lord made the following statement: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). Here, Jesus proclaims that His peace – true, unwavering, circumstance-transcending peace – is a gift given to each one of His followers. Yet, the expression, “let not your heart be troubled” makes it sound as if the actual unwrapping and enjoyment of the gift is the choice of every believer. Afterall, one can either let one’s heart be troubled or not let it be troubled. How is this choice then made? How do we unwrap the peace so graciously given to us? The answer can be found in the following passage from Philippians.
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Philippians 4:6-9).
Four steps are listed within this passage that are required for us to unwrap peace. In this blog series, we are going to discuss them one by one.
STEP 1: PRAY ABOUT IT
The first portion of the above passage is well-known in church circles. It is perhaps one of the first verses that new believers are encouraged to commit to memory. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God” (Philippians 4:6). I will focus on the thanksgiving element in a future post. Currently, let us consider the prayer portion of this instruction. We are told by Paul to bring whatever may be prompting the anxiety or worry before our Heavenly Father, asking Him to intervene.
This is the first step in the unwrapping peace process: Pray about it. Whatever may be concerning us, we are to lift the matter before the Lord in prayer. If you are not praying about it, you cannot expect to feel at peace about it. Prayer and peace go hand-in-hand. It is perhaps the laziness within us that demands we experience peace regarding a situation without us having presented it to the Lord in prayer. This is not how God works. Rather, the heavenly procedure is this: A matter disturbs us; we pray to the Father about it; His peace permeates heart and mind; He answers our petition. In short, peace follows prayer.
The word translated as “supplication” in Philippians 4:6 is the Greek noun, deésis. The word refers to a sincere petition that is motivated by an urgent, deeply felt need. Jesus discussed worrying about needs in Matthew 6, shortly following a teaching on prayer. His teachings on prayer and worry can be found sitting side-by-side. It is interesting to note that He first taught His disciples how to pray and then He told them not to worry. Surely, this is no coincidence! Prayer is a worry-extinguisher. Without prayer, worry runs rampant. With prayer, worry is a defeated foe. Speaking about supporting widows, Paul wrote, “Now she who is really a widow, and left alone, trusts in God and continues in supplications and prayers night and day” (1 Timothy 5:5). Does the believing widow frazzle and fret? No! She prays – both for herself and others – and the Lord responds to her supplications, providing for her every need and flooding her being with His peace.
Those words in our key passage, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything,” are significant. Nothing and everything are antonyms. They are opposites. The reason why we worry about nothing is because we pray about everything. Our worry-box is empty because our prayer-box is full. The use of the word, “everything” tells us that nothing is too insignificant that it should not be brought before the Father. If you are worrying about it, God cares about it. Bring the matter to Him in prayer. Shift it from your worry-box into your prayer-box and then leave it in your prayer-box until the matter is resolved. Be like the persistent widow in the parable told by our Lord in Luke 18. “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up. ‘There was a judge in a certain city,’ he said, ‘who neither feared God nor cared about people. A widow of that city came to him repeatedly, saying, “Give me justice in this dispute with my enemy.” The judge ignored her for a while, but finally he said to himself, “I don’t fear God or care about people, but this woman is driving me crazy. I’m going to see that she gets justice, because she is wearing me out with her constant requests!”’ Then the Lord said, ‘Learn a lesson from this unjust judge. Even he rendered a just decision in the end. So don’t you think God will surely give justice to his chosen people who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will grant justice to them quickly! But when the Son of Man returns, how many will he find on the earth who have faith?’” (Luke 18:1-8, NLT).
As the widow persisted in her justice request, so we should persist in our prayer request until our prayer is answered. Let that matter sit in your prayer-box until it can be moved to your testimony-box. In that prayer box there is peace, the kind of peace that passes all understanding and guards your heart and mind (Philippians 4:7). The heart is the seat of your emotion-life. The mind is the seat of your thought-life. Both are permeated by the peace that God gives, if we would only cooperate with the peace unwrapping process. Amen!
I am not now going to discuss prayer further as I have already done so thoroughly in my TEACH US TO PRAY e-booklet that is available for free from our ebooks section here. Please download it, read it and watch out for the next post in this blog series for STEP 2.