Summary: In times of crisis, we are to express the positive through our words and works so that we enjoy the peace of God.
In times of crisis, like what we are experiencing right now, we usually hear, “Why worry when you can pray?” Prayer allows us to prevail over these trying times. But, frankly, we tend to worry more than pray. One of my favorite verses in the Bible on prayer is Philippians 4:6-9. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” This morning, we will talk about “Prevailing Prayer.”
Look at verse 6: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” There are two commands here. First, “Do not be anxious about anything” and, second, “present your requests to God.” Let us look at the first command: “Do not be anxious about anything”.
Worry is defined as “anxiety, fretfulness, or undue concern.” Of course, we do worry. It is a constant temptation to worry. When the price of oil or rice or tuition fees skyrockets, it is our natural reaction to worry. It is our default setting as humans. However, it is one thing to feel that way. It is another to dwell in it. That’s why we are commanded, “Do not be anxious about anything”. So, since it is a command, it is sin to give in and brood in worry. This imperative is in the present active. According to my Greek manual, the present imperative is “used for (1) general actions that should characterize one’s life and also for (2) specific actions that one should begin and continue.” We are commanded to continually make it our way of life not to worry. Note also that it is in the active voice. It takes effort not to worry. As I’ve said, it is our default setting to worry. God wired us to worship Him. But our sins caused us to be rewired for worry. It is a choice, a step of obedience, and a decision not to do so. Are we living a life that can be characterized as worry-free? If we are worrying right now, what actions can we take to begin and continue living a life that is worry-free?
In his “How God Works When We Are Worried And Weary” wrote, “‘Do not worry’ does not mean that we are to be careless. Rather, it means that we are to be free from needless care. It does not mean that we are to be indifferent about our concerns. Rather, it means that we be different in handling our concerns. It does not mean that we are to be thoughtless. Rather, it means that our thoughts must be full of God’s thoughts, so that we will be thoughtful to others and not simply be thinking of ourselves.”
So, instead of panicking, we are to pray. That’s the second command. Again, let us look at verse 6. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Encircle the conjunction “but.” The word Paul used here gave a strong contrast. We cannot worry and pray at the same time. Either we worry or we pray. Literally, the verse reads, “Be anxious about nothing but pray about everything.” I like the contrast. Nothing to worry about. Everything to pray for. Worry is like a heavy burden. Either we allow it to break our backs or we allow it to bring us to our knees in prayer. Either we carry it ourselves, which will be too heavy for us to carry, or we commit it to God. The Bible tells us, “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” We do that through prayer.
The word “prayer” is “a word that denotes the petitioners attitude of mind as worshipful.” So, prayer is not going through the notions of saying it. No formulas. No magic words. No rituals. It’s a matter of the heart. We are not commanding a genie that considers our wish as his command. We are seeking the sovereign God. The word “petition” refers “generally [to] a request arising from a specific need.” We can be as specific as possible in our requests before God. But, as someone wrote, “Leave it entirely up to God to decide what the blessings would be and where, when, and how we would receive them.” That’s why we pray “with thanksgiving.” We acknowledge that whatever God grants is for our good. “It may also include remembrance of previous blessings.” Psalm 103:2 says, “Praise the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits”.