Rejoicing in All Circumstances, Part 4 – Peace through Prayer

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(Greek words can be viewed using the Symbol font)

Pastor Scott L. Harris

Grace Bible Church, NY

October 17, 2004

Rejoicing in All Circumstances, Part 4

Peace through Prayer – Philippians 4:5-7




Anxiety and worry. Two words to describe the condition of feeling disturbed
or even depressed through fear regarding some event or outcome (Webster). It has
also been described as the “interest paid on trouble before it falls due.” The
Biblical Greek word for worry, merimnavw /
merimna, means “to be drawn in different
,” and is derived from a root meaning “to be thoughtful
and related to another word meaning “to remember.” To be anxious, to worry, is
to be troubled with cares. The uncertainty of the future causes the mind to go
back and forth about the possible outcomes and how to react to them. At times,
it feels like you’re tied between two horses that are pulling in opposite

Worry has been shown to cause all sorts of problems ranging from loss of
productivity, to relationship conflicts, to medical conditions including ulcers,
headaches, neck and back aches, vision problems and one dentist found that it
even accelerated tooth decay. Luke 21:34 tells us that worry weighs people down,
and Matthew 13:22 in the parable of the sower, we find that worry can even choke
out people from responding to the Word of God. Yet, worry has never lengthened
the life of anyone even though so much time and energy is put into it (Luke
12:25). Worry has never solved a problem, though one comedian quipped, “It
pays to worry. Ninety percent of the things I worry about never happen. Worry
keeps them away.”

People worry about all sorts of things. The Bible records people worrying
about all the following: for life (Mt 6:25); clothing (Mt 6:28); food and drink
(Mt 6:31); tomorrow (Mt 6:34); what to say (Lk 12:11); and even hosting guests (Lk
10:41). People in our society do not worry very often about getting food, but
they do worry about losing weight. Having clothes is not an issue, but having
the right clothes to be fashionable causes many people to be anxious. People
worry about both serious and superfluous things ranging from mortgage bills and
health issues to bad breath and hair color. Perhaps there is something to the
adage that “ignorance is bliss,” for one pundit quipped that “an educated man
will sit up all night and worry over things a fool never dreamed of.”
the serious, to the sublime, to the silly, worry is as useless as sawing
sawdust, and yet it controls the lives of so many people, including many

This morning we are going to talk about God’s cure for worry. Turn to
Philippians 4:4-7. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say rejoice! Let your
forbearing spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. 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,
shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”


We have already covered the command to rejoice in the Lord always and
the command to let your forbearing spirit be known to all men, so we will
not cover those again today. Please pick up the audio tape or download the
sermon text from our website. All I want to say today about both of these
commands is that they lay the foundation for proper prayer, for both of them
require the same understanding of God and view of life that is necessary for
prayer that will bring God’s peace into your life. You can only rejoice in the
Lord always if you understand that your life is not about you, but rather
bringing glory to your Creator through your life. You must also recognize that
God is holy, just, righteous, good, loving, kind, longsuffering, merciful,
gracious, all powerful, all knowledgeable, and sovereign. He knows what He is
doing. He is always at work, and He does what is best even when we may not like
the circumstances He allows into our lives. Paul understood all of these things
and so was able to rejoice in the Lord even though his personal circumstances
were not good. He was able to see the Lord work despite the persecution he was
suffering from unbelievers and how sinfully some professing Christians were
behaving toward him.

This same foundation of belief enabled Paul to stand firm and reflect the
characteristics of Jesus Christ in showing forbearance to others, and so he
calls on us to do the same. We can demonstrate a humble graciousness to others
even when they are anything but that to us. Our goal is to demonstrate Jesus
Christ to others, for in doing so we bring glory to God. That does not mean that
we ignore sin or that there will not be consequences for it, but it does mean
that we strive to be kind, tenderhearted and forgiving to one another even as
God has forgiven us in Christ Jesus (Eph. 4:32). We saw that lived out here last

Nearness of the Lord

The next phrase in verse 5 is that “The Lord is near.” This is a
statement of fact that gives us reason to not only rejoice and be forbearing,
but also of invitation to come quickly to Him in prayer. A few have interpreted
this in terms of the nearness of the Lord’s return in keeping with the
statements of Philippians 3:20 and our eager anticipation of His return, but the
immediate context here speaks more of the nearness of His presence.

Part of the mystery of the spiritual realm is the omnipresence of God. Jesus
is in Heaven preparing a place for us (John 14:1-4) and at the right hand of the
Father making intercession for us (Heb. 7:25; 8:1), but He is also keeping His
promises of Matthew 28:20 to be with us always, even to the end of the age,
and Hebrews 13:5 to never desert us or forsake us. The reality of this is
brought home even more to us when we remember that the Holy Spirit indwells
every true Christian (Rom. 8:11). Our Lord is not off in some distance place
where He cannot hear our cries to Him, nor is there any travel delay in His
responding to us. He is near, and in fact through the Holy Spirit, He living
within us and through us.

The near presence of God is a source of our rejoicing because it is hard to
be sad when the one you love the most is with you. I can be saddened by many
things, but things become brighter just by having Diane in the room with me. How
much more am I affected the same way when I remember that my Lord Jesus Christ
is with me always.

His near presence is also a source for my forbearing with others. In the same
way that a dad’s presence encourages a son to do his best and do things
properly, so the presence of our Lord enables and encourages us to be like

The Lord’s near presence also brings the comfort of being able to bring
before Him quickly anything that is on my heart, and I know that He will listen
and respond to my cries. I can then rest in His peace. That is the foundation
for proper prayer.

Proper Prayer

Now before I begin explaining what Paul says here in Phil. 4:6,7 about proper
prayer, I want to let you know that in the future I will be doing an extended
topical series on prayer. It had been one of our church’s strengths, but over
the last few years it has become one of our weaknesses, and some of that is due
to a lack of understanding and practice of it. So we will be doing that in the
future. For this morning, I want to give an overview of proper prayer from what
Paul says here in Philippians so that we will understand the relationship of
prayer to being able to “stand firm in the Lord” (4:1) and rejoicing in the Lord

Paul begins verse 6 with a negative command. “Be anxious for nothing”
which is then followed by the command to pray properly. This is the very cure
for anxiety, for it brings God’s peace. This negative command is the contrast to
the positive command to rejoice in the Lord always, for they both cannot be true
at the same time. You cannot be anxious while also rejoicing in the Lord, and
you cannot be rejoicing in the Lord and worry at the same time. So in a real
sense, this command to proper prayer is one of the means by which we are enabled
to carry out the command to rejoice in the Lord always.

I have already explained that the Greek word translated here as anxious or
worry has the basic meaning of being “drawn in different directions.” Our
minds become preoccupied with our circumstances and how to respond, but we do
not know what to do. We go back and forth weighing the pros and cons of every
possible response and outcome. That is not where God wants our minds to be. Turn
to Matthew 6 and lets quickly look at Jesus’ command concerning this.

In verses 5-15 Jesus instructs His disciples in proper prayer. In verses
16-18 Jesus explains the proper way to fast, which is related to prayer. Then in
verse 19-34 Jesus deals with the common things of life that cause people so much
anxiety. God does not want us to be concerned about the things of this world or
even the daily needs of life. He wants our concentration to be on Him, so He
promises to take care of our needs. Follow along staring in verse 25.


“For this reason I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, [as to] what
you shall eat, or what you shall drink; nor for your body, [as to] what you
shall put on. Is not life more than food, and the body than clothing? 26 “Look
at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, neither do they reap, nor gather
into barns, and [yet] your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much
more than they? 27 “And which of you by being anxious can add a [single] cubit
to his life’s span? 28 “And why are you anxious about clothing? Observe how the
lilies of the field grow; they do not toil nor do they spin, 29 yet I say to you
that even Solomon in all his glory did not clothe himself like one of these. 30
“But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is [alive] today and
tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, [will He] not much more [do so for] you, O
men of little faith? 31 “Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or
‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ 32 “For all
these things the Gentiles eagerly seek; for your heavenly Father knows that you
need all these things. 33 “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness; and
all these things shall be added to you. 34 “Therefore do not be anxious for
tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. [Each] day has enough trouble of
its own.


God’s promises remove the reason for worry. You can trust Him.

But some will say that there are more things in life to worry about than just
the stuff of daily life – food, drink and clothing. Paul’s command here in
Philippians 4:6 takes care of anything else that you can think of, because if
you can think of it, you can bring it to God in prayer. There is nothing left
out. Everything can be brought to God in prayer.

In this verse, Paul gives us four aspects to proper prayer. There is prayer,
supplication, thanksgiving and requests.

The word for “prayer” here, proseuchv /
proseuch, is a general word for prayer with
no narrower indication of its content, and it is always used in reference to
God. It signifies a worshipful approach to God that includes reverence and
adoration. Nicoll says that it “emphasizes prayer as an act of worship or
.” We can bring everything to God in prayer. We can come to Him with
anything that is on our heart or mind, but we do need to come with the right
attitude. God is still God, not a benevolent grandpa or a magic genie who is
supposed to give us whatever we want. We come to Him with the recognition that
He is “Our Father Who art in Heaven” and whose name is to be “hallowed
(Matthew 6:9-15).

Let me add to this thought here that too often we treat God with a
familiarity that fails to give Him His proper position. His nearness does not
mean He is our “good buddy” who is treated like someone we “hang out” with. He
is our superior in every way. We are not His equals in any way. One of the
things we have worked to teach our kids is that there is a right way and a wrong
way to ask us for something. If they ask either the wrong way or with the wrong
attitude, they know they will not receive a favorable answer. If it is that way
between a parent and child, how much more so must it be that way between the
Creator and His creatures. We must always approach God with reverence, honor,
and respect.

Let me suggest to you that as a means to promote praying with reverence, it
is a good idea to have a quiet place without distraction to pray. It is also a
good idea to place yourself in some posture that recognizes His holiness. You
would not go to your boss to ask him for something and sit on his desk or sit
sloppily in your chair, for you know there needs to be a certain amount of
decorum to show respect for him, yet we often are so casual in our coming to
God, that it spills over in how we pray. In scripture find people praying in all
sorts of positions – laying prostrate, standing, kneeling and even in
desperation while trying to keep a boat afloat. Find a place and position which
will help you approach God properly.

The word for “supplication” here, devhsi” /
desis, has an original meaning of “to
want,” “to lack;” “to desire,” “to long for;” “to ask, beg.” It is translated as
“pray,” “supplication,” and “petition.” It is a general word for prayer, but the
word is not limited to usage with just God. Cremer notes that it is an asking of
a need. Nicoll states that it is “the cry of personal need.” Supplication is
often a specific petition for a particular benefit.

We pray in general in talking with God, but we also may make supplication,
which is petitioning God to do something in regards to a specific need. There
are those that will only pray generally because they do not want to bother God
with their own particular needs, but that is not what God desires from us.
Remember that even in the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples, He included
that they are to make supplication for their needs including their daily bread.
God desires to have us ask from Him for those things that are on our hearts. We
only need to remember that we are not to ask to consume it upon our own lusts
(James 4), but rather according to His will as He sees fit to provide for us.

A third element of proper prayer that Paul points out here is that our
prayers and supplications are to be made with “thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving,
eujcaristiva /eucharistia, is an acknowledgment
of grace received. It is thanks given to God for physical provision, spiritual
provision, people, and Himself. This is an element of worship that is part of
true prayer. Recall from our study of Hebrews 13:15,16 a couple of weeks ago
that “Through Him [Jesus] then, let us continually offer up a
sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His
This thanksgiving is an indicator of attitude more than anything
else. Someone who says, “thank you” with a grudging attitude is not giving
thanksgiving. The attitude is more important than the specific words that are

I cannot stress enough the importance of this element of proper prayer
because it is the overflow of having a proper understanding of God’s character
and recognition of His work, and without that understanding and recognition
there cannot be rejoicing in the Lord or the ability to rest in His peace.

Those who pray without thanksgiving make themselves the center of the
universe with God existing for their good pleasure instead of the other way
around. There is no joy in that for two reasons. First, God will not respond to
such prayers for He will not listen to the prayers of those who regard
wickedness in their heart (Ps. 66), and selfishness is a great wickedness.
Second, if God did give them what they wanted in their sinfulness, they would
have to deal with the natural consequences that always come out of sin. The
pleasures of sin are always fleeting, but the consequences of sin can last a
long time and even be eternal. Praying without thanksgiving also leaves you
without peace because its lack demonstrates that there is lack of confidence in
God’s promises, and it is trust in God and His promises that allow for peace.

It is with prayer, supplication and thanksgiving that we come to God and let
our requests be made known to Him. “Requests” ai[thma
/ aitma, is the fourth element of
proper prayer. This word places emphasis on the object asked for. It is similar
to the word for supplication, but it is usually a specific petition for a
particular thing. So again, we find that God does want us to come to Him with
the specific things that are on our hearts and minds. He takes pleasure in
answering specific prayers that are according to His will. One reason for this
is that the more specific we are, the greater we demonstrate our understanding
of His will for our lives.

For example, it is common for people to ask on behalf of others, or
themselves, that God would “bless” them. What then are they asking for? Are they
asking for a financial “blessing”so that they can go out and buy the consumer
items their flesh craves? Are they asking for a physical “blessing” so they can
go out and do the things their flesh craves? We know that God does not grant
such requests because they are of the flesh (James 3; 1 John 2). Or perhaps they
are asking for God to “bless” them by giving them a greater revelation of
Himself that they may deepen in their understanding and service for Him. That
request is in keeping with His will, but I fear that most people that ask for a
“blessing” do not really want what God considers a blessing. Remember that Paul
even longed for the blessing of knowing Jesus even to the point of the
“fellowship of His sufferings” (Phil. 3:10). How many people do you know pray
for that?

God delights in specific requests. Here are a few that are included in
prayers in the Bible:

Creation of a clean heart and renewal of a steadfast spirit (Ps. 51)

Forgiveness for sin (Mt. 6:12; 1 John 1:9)

Provision of daily bread (Mt. 6:11)

Deliverance from temptation and evil (Mt. 6:13; 1 Cor. 10:13)

To be delivered from those who are disobedient (Rom. 15:30-32)

To have a spirit of godly wisdom & knowledge of Him (Eph. 1)


To have an enlightened heart to understand God’s work and promises (Eph.

To have your love abound more and more in real knowledge and all
discernment (Phil. 1:9)

For wisdom to understand how God is using our trials to mature us (James 1)

For the spiritual growth of others that they would do right and not wrong
and be made complete (2 Cor 13:7-9)

To walk worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in all respects and bearing fruit
in every good work (Col. 1:9-12)


For a door of ministry for the Word of God (Col. 4:2-4)

Boldness to proclaim the gospel (Eph. 6:20)

The list could go on, but you get the idea. God desires you to come to Him
with prayers, supplications, thanksgiving and specific requests before Him that
you might then see His hand at work.




The result of proper prayer is peace as Paul states in verse 7. “And the
peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, shall guard your hearts and
your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Peace is often to used to refer to an absence of conflict, such as the
“peace” between North and South Korea. We call that “peace” because they are not
currently shooting at each other, but the truth is that they are still at war
with the North continuing its efforts to subvert and intimidate the South as
much as possible. If it were not for the threat of retaliation by U.S. forces,
they would have openly invaded again. That is not the Biblical peace that the
Scripture passage is talking about.

Biblical peace is not just an absence of conflict, it is a restoration of
harmony. Peace with God is more than just the removal of the enmity that once
existed, for it changes the sinner who was the enemy of God into a forgiven
saint who is adopted into God’s family. Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our
sin with His own life which allows us to receive God’s forgiveness and be
restored to a proper relationship with Him. It is a relationship of harmony that
brings a sense of calmness, serenity, contentment and security.

Let me add here quickly that the same is true in having peace within fellow
believers. It is much more than an absence of conflict. It is to be a harmonious
unity of purpose, and cooperation and care brought about by the humble love of
Christ flowing through each of us to one another. That is why the grumbling and
disputing I spoke of last week is so dangerous. Even if it does not break out
into open conflict, it plays into the devil’s hand by disrupting and even
destroying the harmony and unity that is to exist among God’s people. The
bookmark included in the bulletin today is designed as a reminder of the
differences between giving counsel, which solves problems, and gossip, which
spreads them. There are more available in the back.

Proper prayer brings peace because it brings us back into a proper
understanding and harmony with God. We present to Him the things that disturb us
and then rest in His promises to care for us. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us that you can
cast all your cares or anxieties upon Him, because He cares for you. Because God
is good, all knowing, loving, merciful and gracious, we can have confidence that
God does know what is best for us. And because God is all powerful, unchanging
and sovereign, we can be confident that He will do what is best. Together these
allow us to trust Him with the things that we bring to Him. Isaiah 26:3
describes the result of this trust – “Thou wilt keep [him] in perfect peace,
[whose] mind [is] stayed [on thee]: because he trusteth in thee.”

One of the wonderful things about being raised in a good home was the ability
to live without worry. As a kid, I might have wondered what was for dinner, but
I was never worried about not having it. I knew my mom and dad loved me and
would keep their word, so if I brought a problem to them and they said they
would take care of it, I never had to think about it again. How much more so is
it with our heavenly Father? His love was proved in Jesus Christ, and there is
no question about His trustworthiness. Whatever I bring to Him, I can leave it
there and rest on His promises. He will do it. That is why I can then have peace
and no longer have to worry about it.

Paul describes this as a peace that surpasses all comprehension because it is
a calm serenity and contentment that can exist when everything else was in
turmoil. Paul had this peace while being imprisoned and having other Christians
purposely seeking to cause Him distress. It is a peace I have seen in many
Christians at funerals. They were hurting deeply because their loved one had
passed away, yet they had a deep abiding peace that comforted them in the midst
of the pain, because they trusted God’s promises that their beloved was now with
Jesus Christ and that they would see them again someday. It is a peace I have
had when confronting our enemy. I still recall the absolute peace and confidence
the day I had to deal with a demonized woman. I could rest in God’s hands and
simply be His servant.

This peace is something that guards our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. One
of our adversaries greatest weapons is to cause us fear, and worry is a fear
response. 1 John 4:18 tells us that there is no fear in love and that perfect
love casts out fear. God loves us perfectly, so we can rest in Him without fear.
When troubling circumstances arise we can go to our Lord and cast those burdens
upon Him and then rest in His peace. That peace protects us from reacting as the
world does with its fear, worry and anxiety.

Are you worried, anxious, fearful? There are certainly enough things in this
life that push us that way, but as believers and followers of the Lord Jesus
Christ, we have a solution in prayer to have peace no matter what circumstance
or situation we face.

Study Sheets


Parents, you are responsible to apply God’s Word to your children’s lives.
Here is some help.

Young Children – draw a picture about something you hear during the
sermon. Explain your picture(s) to your parents at lunch. Older Children –
Do one or more of the following: 1) Write down all the verses mentioned in the
sermon and look them up later. 2) Count how many times any words related to
prayer are used. Talk with your parents about how you can pray properly to God.


Questions to consider in discussing the sermon with others.

What are common beliefs are necessary in order to “Stand firm in the Lord,”
“Rejoice in the Lord always,” be forbearing, and pray properly.
What is
the meaning and importance about Paul’s statement that “the Lord is near.” How
does this affect you personally? What is its relationship to proper prayer? Do
you worry? Are you anxious about anything? If so, what? What is God’s cure for
worry and anxiety? What are the elements of proper prayer? In Philippians 4:6,
what do the following words mean: “prayer,” “supplication,” “thanksgiving” and
“requests?” Explain the relationship of each to one other. How do you practice
each of these in your own prayer life? How does proper prayer lead to God’s
peace? Do you have this peace? How have you seen this peace that surpasses
comprehension demonstrated in your own life, or that of other Christians? How
does proper prayer guard your mind in Christ Jesus?