by Pastor James Lee
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 your minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:4-8)
To think well is to think humbly. And anywhere we’re not humble, we’re not thinking well. And to think humbly requires us to think reliantly, think prayerfully, so that we’re refusing to be anxious or fearful about anything, trusting Him, and not ourselves. Remember v. 6 says, “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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” We need to dwell on that… prayerfully. If we’re anxious, then we’re not believing His promise, are we? The sooner we get a grip on ourselves that we’re nothing, outside the grace of God, the sooner we’re going to be rejoicing. Paul writes, repeats our Lord Jesus, don’t worry! Anxiety is opposite of being primarily concerned about others. Prayer reflects and effects. Worry, anxiety and discontentment, Dr. Sam Storms, rightly says are all self-centered, rather than God-centered, when he writes,
“Anxiety is rooted in self, while prayer is rooted in God. Anxiety is the fruit of a narrow, constricted view of life. The only thing one can see is the problems or perplexities surrounding us. Prayer is the fruit of a broad and expansive view of life in which God is so big that everything else, even our worst problems and worries, shrink into insignificance. Anxiety is horizontal in focus. Prayer, on the other hand, is vertical in focus. That is to say, when you worry you are consumed with looking to the left and to the right, forward and backward. When you pray, you can’t help but look up. Anxiety never raises your eyes above your problems, your situation and your circumstances. Prayer raises your eyes above and beyond yourself to God and His power. Anxiety looks to self to solve problems. Prayer looks to God to endure problems. When you are anxious, your circumstances and problems control you; they have sovereignty over you; you invest in them a power and authority to shape your life. Anxiety is an expression of fear. Prayer is an expression of faith. That is why prayer is an antidote to anxiety.”
Realize anxiety is an indictment on God’s flawless wisdom and a mocking of His infinite power. And that’s not very humble, for the creature to say that, about the Creator, is it? We might not think about it this way, especially when we’re struggling, but it’s self-righteous arrogance. But the opposite is humility, which is to do as 1 Peter 5:7 says, “Cast all our anxiety on Him, because He cares for us.” The opposite of prayer is pride. But heartfelt prayer is an expression of humility. John MacArthur said, “If you are going to be stable in the tough times of life, it is born out of an absolute distrust of yourself and a total trust in the sovereign God of grace and power.” Spurgeon said, “If you believe everything turns on the free will of man, you will naturally have man as the principle figure in your landscape.” Then you’re going to be disappointed, by putting all your hope in what people might provide you. Because the dilemma you’ll come face to face with, is how weak and how fickle people are. And, then you’re going to have every reason to be full of anxiety! When the Source of our joy is unshakeable, then our joy becomes unshakeable, and we get HIS peace.
Question: if God already knows what we’re going to ask and what we need, before we pray, then why do we pray? There are different biblical reasons, but one is that we need it, not Him. Prayer is not to inform Him, but to rely on Him, and to glorify Him. And a big reason why we don’t pray well, is because we don’t think well. We’re not desperate enough. We haven’t come to the end of ourselves, so that we’re not expecting anything beyond the grace of God. We realize we don’t deserve anything anyway, and what we do deserve, God’s wrath, is not at all what we’re getting. Thus, we haven’t been cheated out of anything, we haven’t received the short end of the stick or a raw deal. So we’re not looking for kudos or appreciation or understanding from others. So, we will not be disappointed, only thrilled and thankful when we get anything good. And humble people are always thankful people! Because humble people are not thinking that they deserve something better, but discontent and angry and greedy people think they do. That’s why Paul says we pray, “with thanksgiving.” That’s why we can be content, in hunger or in plenty. Do we not tend to be plentiful in requests, but minimal in thanksgiving? But if we know He’s worthy, that He’s already solved our biggest problem, then we’re going to be habitually thankful. It’s no surprise then that Paul says in Colossians 4:2, “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving.”
The irony is that we usually think that our complaining is due to our unhappiness, but in the context of the cross of Christ, very often, the truth is that our unhappiness sometimes is ironically due to our complaining. Spurgeon said, “If we complained less and were more thankful, we would be happier, and God would be more glorified.” FF Bruce on the flip side, warned us, “Lack of gratitude is the first step to idolatry.”