"Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. (7) If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus."
(Philippians 4:6-7 The Living Bible)
This scripture is special to me. Philippians 4:6-7 is the first scripture passage I memorized after committing my life to the Lord in 1974. My thirst for the Word began then. My wife and I both memorized this scripture at the urging of our first Adult Bible Study teacher, "Bruce." Bruce continually quipped, "When in a fix, Philippians 4:6."
This article essentially is a reprint of an article I wrote in the 1982 time frame for our church newspaper, "The Good News."
Worry still is a major issue for people. In fact, worry is rampant. Worry is nearly universal in our American lifestyle; it certainly affects non-Christians, but it also affects Christians. Non-Christians do not have the resources to draw upon that we have -- namely, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, His word, and the Christian support community. Oh how miserable it must be to live and not know Jesus Christ!
Pray about everything
First, Paul tells us we are to pray, and not only to pray, but to pray about everything, and that includes praying about everything that worries us. God is not too busy to hear our prayers -- He is always available. Too often we are too busy to avail ourselves of His time. Furthermore, our God is concerned about all of our life, down to the smallest detail. He wants us to cast all of our anxieties on Him, not just the emergencies (1 Peter 5:7 ESV).
Tell God our needs
Second, we are to tell God our needs. I find it interesting that although God knows everything about us, including our thoughts and concerns, Paul instructs us to tell God our needs. There are many fine ways to pray -- in church, in groups -- but I believe the key is to have a foundation of private and personal prayer with God on a frequent and regular basis. Prayer with the body of Christ is uplifting and necessary to our spiritual well-being, but there is no substitute for quality time spent alone with the Lord.
Thank Him for His answers
Third, we are to thank God for His answers. We are to pray with thanksgiving in our hearts. An attitude of thanklessness on our part -- for God's blessings and provisions for us and for His answers to our prayers -- is a major hindrance to an effectual prayer life and hampers the development of a close relationship with God. Each day as we pray it is helpful to recall the things we have previously prayed about, and to thank Him for His answers -- and for those answers which are still "on the way."
Experience God's peace
Fourth, God promises us peace -- a wonderful peace in our hearts. He promises that His peace will guard our hearts (Philippians 4:7 ESV). The Greek word for guard is phroureó, which means to be a watcher in advance, to mount guard as a sentinel, and to protect (Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, Ref. 1). God's peace guards our hearts and keeps our thoughts quiet.
This peace, God's peace in our hearts, is so precious that man's mind can never produce it -- it is given by God. And, the only way we can receive it is to trust in Christ Jesus. There is no other way to receive the "peace which surpasses understanding" (Philippians 4:7 ESV) than to trust personally in Jesus Christ. We do this by placing our complete reliance upon Him as a person and on His word -- we place the care of our whole being into His hands.
With the world, there is worry. In contrast, as followers of Jesus Christ, we can pray about everything, tell God our needs, and thank Him for His answers. Then His peace will keep our thoughts and our hearts quiet and at rest as we trust in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7 TLB).
"Is anyone among you suffering? Then he must pray. Is anyone cheerful? He is to sing praises. (14) Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; (15) and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him. (16) Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much." (James 5:13-16)
This article presents five Biblical keys to effective prayer -- pray with other Christians, pray in faith, confess our sin, pray in the will of God, and pray in the name of Jesus. This article also discusses the results of effective prayer.
Prayer is one of the most important topics we will ever discuss as Christians. Prayer is communication with God. Prayer helps us receive God's peace and healing in the midst of our problems and concerns. Prayer helps us discern God's will for our lives. Prayer encourages others, protects others, and empowers others to further the ministry of Christ in the world.
It is to our advantage to learn to pray effectively. Why? Because "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" (James 5:16).
The Bible gives us guidance in how to pray effectively.
The Keys to Effective Prayer
This section presents five keys to effective prayer. The first two keys are based on James 5:14-15.
1. Pray with other Christians. James 5:14 instructs us, "Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they [third person plural] are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord" (James 5:14, brackets added).
Of course, God hears our prayers when we are alone and are praying in secret (Matthew 6:5-6). However, Scripture also teaches us that it is advantageous for us to pray with our companions in Christ. Recall that Jesus sent out his disciples in pairs (Mark 6:7). He gave them [third person plural] authority over unclean spirits, with the results that they cast out many demons, anointed sick people with oil, and healed them (Mark 6:13).
2. Pray in faith. James 5:15 tells us, "And the prayer offered in faith [Greek word pistis, which means persuasion, come to trust] will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him" (James 5:15, brackets added, Ref. 1). When we pray in faith, God is pleased because we believe that "He is" and that "He is a rewarder of those who seek Him" (Hebrews 11:6). Note that faith, "divine persuasion," is a gift that God gives to believers (Ephesians 2:8-9, Ref. 1, Acts 16:14).
3. Confess our sin and receive forgiveness as a prerequisite for effective prayer. This teaching -- that confession of sin is a prerequisite for effective prayer -- may seem strange to some, even Christians. However, this key cannot be overlooked if we are to pray effectively.
John writes about confessing our sins to God, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness" (1 John 1:9). When we harbor unforgiven sin, or anger or unforgiveness towards others, that sin can block the channel of God's power through us in our prayers. Refer to Matthew 5:22-24, Matthew 6:14-15, James 1:20, and Psalm 66:18.
To become effective prayer channels for God when we minister to others or pray for ourselves, we should first take time to confess our sins and to receive God's forgiveness through God's Son, Jesus Christ (1 John 1:7, 9).
4. Pray confidently in the will of God. John tells us, "This is the confidence [bold resolve] which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will [God's desire, preferred will], He hears us" (1 John 5:14, brackets added, Ref. 2, Ref. 3).
Praying in God's will includes trusting God with the outcome. Recall that Jesus said to his Father, "Not My will, but Yours be done" (Luke 22:42).
As believers in Christ and as children of our heavenly Father (John 1:12), we can learn God's will through prayer (speaking with and listening to God), God's word, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). If we do not know God's will in a matter, we should ask him (James 1:5).
5. Pray in the name (character and authority) of Jesus. Jesus said to his disciples (and by extension to us as believers), "Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. (14) If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:13-14).
When we pray in Jesus' name, we pray representing his character, reputation, and authority. We pray representing Christ, not ourselves (Ref. 4).
Praying in Jesus' name should not be just a religious phrase we tack on at the end of our prayers. We should discern God's will and then pray our entire prayer in Jesus' name -- in his behalf and for his glory.
The Results of Effective Prayer
Before we close this lesson, let's gain further insight by looking at two word definitions in James 5:16. The New American Standard Bible (1995) says, "The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much" (James 5:16, NASB1995). Let's look at the definitions for the word "effective" and for the words "can accomplish much."
The Greek word for effective in "effective prayer" is the verb energeó. Energeó means energizing, working, and displaying activity (Ref. 5). HELPS Word-studies illustrates this term by the example of "an electrical current energizing a wire, bringing it to a shining light bulb" (Ref. 5). Like the wire that brings electrical energy to turn on a light bulb, our effective prayers are channels for God's energy and power to work change in situations for others.
The James 5:16 scripture also tells us our effective prayers can accomplish much. The Greek word translated as can accomplish much is ischuó. Ischuó means to prevail, to engage the resistance with combative, confrontive force to achieve what the Lord gives us faith to achieve (Ref. 6). The idea of our prayers engaging the resistance reminds me of the verse, "For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses" (2 Corinthians 10:4, italics added).
Finally, a word about trusting God. Many times when we pray fervently for others we will see improvements including peace and healing. However, sometimes when we pray in faith and apply all the keys that God has given to us in prayer, the results may not come quickly or turn out the way we hope. In those situations we must continue to trust God. God loves us. God cares for us. God is with us and never forsakes us. God helps us through all of life's difficulties, and for believers in Jesus Christ, God will ultimately bring us into his presence in heaven.
"Do not fear or be dismayed because of this great multitude, for the battle is not yours but God's." (2 Chronicles 20:15)
This article presents five steps to deal with our personal crises - steps that are scriptural, methodical, and effective. All of us at times either have faced or will face personal crises. Circumstances like this strike at the core of our being – physical, spiritual, and emotional. The Bible is a great comfort to us any time, but especially during difficult times - such as the times we are going through now.
Step 1: Recall God's Promises
The first place to turn to is to the Bible. Get your attention off of your problem and on to God. Read and meditate upon God’s promises. This step has a vastly therapeutic effect.
"God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way,
though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam,
though the mountains tremble at its swelling." (Psalm 46:1-3)
For your encouragement, I have included links to 26 additional "promises passages" from God's word. You may see all of these verses written out in just one click here (Ref. 1 - "Bible Verses for Times of Crisis").
Additional promises: Deuteronomy 31:6; Joshua 1:9; Psalm 16:8; Psalm 23:1; Psalm 27:1; Psalm 34:4; Psalm 34:7; Psalm 55:22; Psalm 56:3-4; Psalm 68:19-20; Psalm 91:1-6; Psalm 103:1-5; Proverbs 3:5-6; Isaiah 26:3-4; Isaiah 40:31; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 43:2; Matthew 11:28; John 14:27; Romans 8:28; Romans 15:13; Philippians 4:6-7; Philippians 4:19; Hebrews 6:19; 1 Peter 5:6-7; Revelation 21:4.
Read your Bible regularly, not just when you have a crisis. Memorize scripture verses. That way, when a crisis arises, you can immediately draw upon familiar, comforting words of scripture, and you will be well-equipped to deal with difficult situations when they occur (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Step 2: Put Your Trust in God through Prayer
Prayer is an open conversation with God. Even a short prayer, "Help me," is long enough. Talk with God and ask him to take care of your problem. Trust God to act (Proverbs 3:5-6). Ask God to take care of your problem according to God's will, not your own (1 John 5:14-15). Trust that God is in control of the situation.
Step 3: Solicit Prayer Support from other Christians
Other Christians can bring you much encouragement by praying with you or for you. Share your need or concern with Christian friends, and ask for their prayers. When you are "down," others can pray from strength and lift you up. "Plug in" with one or more small groups of Christians, for example, a Bible study or prayer group, or a fellowship group. Small groups can provide you tremendous personal support (Matthew 18:19-20; Galatians 6:2; James 5:16).
Step 4: Believe that God Will Act
Keep the faith. Remember that you have prayed. Keep on praying. Don’t give up. Feed your faith, not your doubts. Whichever one you feed will grow (Luke 18:1-8; Mark 9:21-24; Psalm 37:5; Hebrews 11:1). God will do what he promises.
Step 5: Testify Publicly to the Results that God Provides
Tell others how God answered your prayers. By this, you will encourage other people. Jesus expects you to “go public” with your testimony about his work in your life – that God may be glorified (Matthew 10:32; Mark 5:18-20; Psalm 66:16, 1 Peter 3:15).
Praise God that God's word never passes away (Matthew 24:35)! We can always count on God to help us through difficult times. God's promises are true and everlasting.
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Mr. Whitney V. Myers. Christian. For more information, please visit the Author Page.
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