Take it to the Lord in Prayer
The story of “What a Friend we have in Jesus”.
Joseph Scriven was born in 1819 in Ireland.
Growing up he had a devoted family, education and wealth.
The day before he was scheduled to be married, his fiancee drowned.
In the aftermath of the pain and heartache, Joseph found the solace and support through Jesus Christ.
Joseph was a Christian, and he found that even in the darkest of storms, the peace of Jesus was able to calm his heart.
Soon after the tragedy, Joseph left Ireland for Port Hope, Canada.
he determined to spend his extra time being a friend and a helper to others.
He became known as the “Good Samaritan of Port Hope”
Later, Scriven’s own mother became Ill in Ireland, he wanted to comfort her with eternal truth. He sent a letter that contained a poem that he had recently written. The first stanza went like this.
All our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry
Ev’rything to God in prayer!
Many of you recognize this poem as the first verse of a song. It is the beginning of a Hymn that has encouraged so many people, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”
The truth is that many of us relate to being weak and heavy laden. We know what it is to have troubles, and we know what it is like to be with others as they go through hard times. And the fact that we can turn these troubles over to God in prayer is a great comfort.
The New Testament Church of Philippi was also in need of this type of comfort and peace.
They were dealing with issues of disunity, of false teachers. Their city was under the guard of the Roman army, and the man who planted their church was being held in prison for his belief in Jesus.
I’m sure that they were tempted to fall into a place of great frustration. . There was plenty to worry and complain about. Paul doesn’t want to see that happen.
Can you relate? Are you carrying some weight in your life today? When you put your head on your pillow, are there thoughts running through your mind and keeping you awake?
What does Paul, the imprisoned missionary and church planter say to those living in Philippi? What is God the Holy Spirit saying to us today?
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
We see in this passage:
Why We Pray
What we pray.
How Prayer affects our whole person.
Why We Pray
There are many great reasons to pray, but in the context of Philippians, the reason we pray is that prayer defeats worry.
Just seeing the command “Don’t worry about anything” can get a person worried. Now, I’m worried that I’m worried instead of praying.
Here is a pair of sunglasses. What if I was to breathe warm air onto the lens. Now when I look through the lens, it’s cloudy, its fuzzy, and I’m not seeing the world clearly anymore.
That’s what worry does. It clouds our vision with anxiety. We don’t see things clearly when we look at them from a place of worry.
Don’t worry about what you eat or drink. Don’t worry about what clothes you are going to wear. And here’s why,
Look at the birds. They don’t have the skills to plant seeds, grow crops, and store up food. But God takes care of them.
You are worth more than the birds. God will take care of you.
Why do you put so much worry into your clothes, and how people will see you.
Consider the wildflowers. They don’t go shopping, they don’t create, they don’t sew. But not even Solomon, the richest King of Israel was adorned like these wildflowers.
If that’s how God clothes the fields, which are here today and used as fuel for the fire tomorrow, won’t he do so much more for you?
So don’t worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For the idolaters eagerly seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be provided for you. Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
God is willing, and God is able to take care of you.
Worry will distract you. Worry will pull your focus from God and his power to your problems and their pain.
So what are we to do? The pain is real. The problems are pressing. This world is full of hardship, worry seems to be our first instinct.
Can we develop a habit of prayer that will put worry out of the equation?
Don Carson summarizes it this way…
Resolve Not to Be Anxious about Anything, but Learn Instead to Pray.
Why we pray? Because God is bigger than our worries, bigger than our problems.
Why we pray? Because Jesus tells us not to worry because in God’s eyes we have worth.
Why we pray? Because it is far more healthy than worry.
Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.
The words “anything” and “everything” stand out here. Don’t worry about anything. That is very comprehensive, it includes whatever it is that you are worried about right now.
But in everything, pray.
It is not just for the big things that we are to pray for. It’s about everything. Nothing is too great for God, nothing is too small for God. And anything can find a way to bring you worry, so in everything. pray.
What are you going through today? Have you prayed about it?
Let us learn about how that prayer will look.
What We Pray
Think about a mother and her sobbing child. Maybe there was a fall, and a knee was scraped. That mother will say, “What’s wrong, what happened?” and the child will tell a little story. And the mother will pour out her love, and in her arms, the child will know safety and help.
We pray to God, our heavenly Father, we tell him our story and he listens with care and with love. And in his arms, we will know safety and help.
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your care on Him, because He cares about you.
I’m so glad that I have a God who cares for me. I’m so glad that I have a God who is willing to take my cares on himself, and who is strong enough to save me.
Prayer & Petition
The words prayer and petition mean almost the same thing in this context. What we are talking about is a divine entreaty. It is an earnest request to God made in humility.
We pray from a position of humility. God is the creator, and we are the created. God is almighty, we can’t even make it rain or snow.
Whatever it is that I am worried about, I want to first go to God in prayer. I need to be careful that I don’t first go to my neighbor, and tell them my worries.
When Trouble comes. When I don’t understand why things are happening the way that they are. When a friend hurts me. When I am sad. My very first step needs to be prayer.
Here is why. When I pray, God works on my heart. Prayer, in one sense, is a surrender to God. It’s saying, “Not my will, but your will”. And so he’s got my heart, and he can begin to soften it with his love, he’s got my thinking, and he can help me to see things from his perspective.
But what if prayer isn’t my first step when trouble comes. What if complaining to my friends is where I start. And I am talking to them from a wounded and broken heart with thinking that is clouded over by worry. Its not good.
When troubles come, our starting place is to Take them to the Lord in prayer.
Look at how Paul prayers for the Church in Ephesus
Now to Him who is able to do above and beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works in us— to Him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
He is giving God glory in this prayer, even before he sees the answer. Paul is trusting his all-powerful God to be faithful. It is easy to see how Paul would include “Thanksgiving” in his instructions on prayer.
Pray with Thanksgiving
There is a story told by Charles Spurgeon of a little boy who remembered every single night at bedtime to say his prayers. But all through the day he disobeyed his parents, showed a general disrespect towards family and friends.
One night before he prayed, his mother said to him that it was sheer hypocrisy for him to pretend to pray. His reply surprised her, “No mom, it is not hypocrisy, because I am praying that God would lead you and Dad to like my ways better than you do.”
Many people want for God to like their ways better, but they do not intend to follow his ways. Their minds aren’t submitting to God’s will and as a result, you can’t find any Thanksgiving in them.
Spurgeon finishes his story by saying,
“Praise in a prayer is indicative of a humble, submissive, obedient spirit, and when it is absent we may suspect willfulness and self-seeking.”
Why does thanksgiving belong with Petitions?
It tells us that we have everything to be thankful for as Christians. Apart from God’s grace, we are dead in our sins. And he loves us to the point of giving his only son so that we might be saved.
When we pray outside of a thankful heart, we are not making requests to God as much as we are making demands.
Let your requests be made known to God
We can’t command God to do anything. Our rightful place is to give God glory, we can’t do anything but make requests.
Why do we pray? Because worry and anxiety cloud our hearts and minds, and prayer leads us to God, our only hope and our only help.
What do we pray? Like a child going to their mother’s arms, we tell God our stories of hurt, and we make our requests to him with thanksgiving.
Prayer Affects our Whole Person
What I mean here is that Prayer doesn’t just touch one part of who we are. Prayer affects every part of who we are. Our hearts, our minds, our thoughts and the way we see others. Prayer is powerful for the work that God does in our lives through his Holy Spirit as we pray.
I find it fascinating that Paul says, “Don’t worry about anything,” and then, later on, he says, “And the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Hearts and minds are a holistic way to look at ourselves, and we need God’s peace in every single part of who we are.
Let me tell you some of the symptoms that are common to anxiety.
Feeling nervous, restless or tense
Having a sense of impending danger, panic or doom
Having an increased heart rate
Breathing rapidly (hyperventilation)
Feeling weak or tired
Trouble concentrating or thinking about anything other than the present worry
Having trouble sleeping
Experiencing gastrointestinal (GI) problems
Having difficulty controlling worry
Having the urge to avoid things that trigger anxiety
Anxiety plays a big role in our city. People are looking for all sorts of solutions to their anxiety. I know that in many cases, medical help is required, and I am for people who need help from doctors getting help from doctors.
God has given us the ability to study the body and medicine, and I am thankful for doctors and medical professionals who have skills and abilities to help those who are hurting.
But as the church, we also are able to help who is hurting, because we can pray. And we pray to the one who created and designed our bodies.
And so to anyone who is going through anxiety, worry and depression, I’m all for you getting medical help, but I hope that you will also allow us to pray for you. For I am convinced that God cares for you, and loves you, and will use prayer as an amazing gift in your life.
And the peace of God, which surpasses every thought, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
God lives in peace. He is totally separate from all anxiety and worry. Jesus was prophesied to be the Prince of Peace. Peace belongs to God, and cannot exist without him. A characteristic of the Fruit of the Spirit is Peace. God is not anxious. God is not worried, but he does care. God is good, and God will guard your heart and your mind with his peace.
I know what is to be troubled, confused and generally not at peace. And when I am at my best, what I do is go for a prayer walk.
I head out from my house resolved to not start coming back until I know God’s peace. And as I walk, I tell Him my story. I tell him what’s frustrating me, and I confess that the way that I’ve been thinking through things hasn’t helped me at all.
I give God all of my emotions, and I’m sure that people watching me walk and talk must think I’m half crazy. Because they can’t see who I’m talking to, and I’m really quite animated.
But I know who I’m talking to. And God is good. Because he heals my heart. He gives me his thoughts. He gives me of himself, and I know his love.
And when I turn around and start heading for home again, I can think clearly. I can see clearly, the clouds have lifted, and I see the world from a perspective that is higher than my own.
God is so faithful. I always come back, because he always takes care of me.
This verse rings true in my heart and mind because God’s peace really does rise above my understanding. God’s thoughts are higher than mine. But so his peace. I can’t even describe but to say, in the middle of life’s heartaches, God’s peace keeps me safe. It’s not just a figurative safety, it’s a safety that surrounds me and tells me that I am his very own.
Oh, what peace we often forfeit,
Oh, what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry
Ev’rything to God in prayer!
The phrase “guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus” is actually very ironic. Philippi was under the guard of the Roman army. It was a Roman Colony and a military outpost. The church who had this letter read to them could see the guards, they knew what it was to be guarded.
Paul is writing them this letter from Prison. He knows what it is to be guarded. But he takes that oppression and uses it to show us how God’s peace can guard our hearts and minds.
The one who lives under the protection of the Most High dwells in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
You will keep the mind that is dependent on You in perfect peace, for it is trusting in You.
Ben Witherington says that
Peace in the biblical sense involves much more, however than the absence of conflict or anxiety; it means the calming, healing presence of God.
The Disciples were in a fishing boat out on the sea of Galilee. The storm was enough to frighten seasoned fisherman. Jesus walked to them on the storm, and then he spoke to the storm. “Peace, Be Still.”
And the storm obeyed Jesus. It was still. The sea was immediately at Peace.
What storm are you in? Have you given it to God in prayer? He can calm your heart, he can calm your mind. He can give you peace. I don’t know what will become of your storm, for God uses all things for the good of those who love him.
Maybe you are going through something, but so is someone else, and in the middle of the storm God’s peace in your heart will help you to help them in Jesus name.
Maybe you are in a storm, and God is going to save you from it, and you get to tell the world the story of how God saved you.
There are so many amazing ways that God can answer our prayer. And he always answers in the way that is best, because he is God. ANd I trust him with my life, and so I trust his answers and his actions with my life.
APPLICATION – “Resolve not to be anxious about anything, learn instead to pray” -Don Carson
God’s peace is for those who are at peace with God.
If you are not at peace with God, you cannot have peace from God. And I’ll tell you why. It’s because of sin.
We are born into this world separated from the God who made us.
As a result, there is an unrest in our hearts, something is very wrong.
And so God loved the world in this way. He gave us his only son Jesus so that by believing in him we will not perish in our sins but instead have eternal life.
Repent of Your Sins & Believe In Jesus
The word repent means a change of mind and a change of heart. It means confessing that the way that we do things is not God’s way of doing things. It is acknowledging that our ways are not right and that God’s ways are right.
Believing Jesus means that you believe that he is God. You believe that he proved his divinity by living a holy life, then dying a sinners death, and being raised to life on the third day. And because you believe that about Jesus, you will study his word and commit to living according to his commands.
I would be happy to speak with you more about that at the end of our service. Just come up to the front, say hello, and we can have a conversation.
Our closing song is an opportunity for you to respond to this message. It is an invitation to take whatever is worrying you to God in prayer.
You can pray right where you are, or if you want someone to pray with you, you can come up to the front and we will pray with you. Peace is not something that you or I can manufacture, it is a gift from God that you are invited to receive today.