"Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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 and sisters, 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." Phil. 4:4-8, NIV
Pray and get peace?
Have you noticed how most of us focus on "do not be anxious about anything" and "present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." We love the idea of not being anxious and receiving God's peace by simply praying our requests. But have you ever tried it when you're anxious? Does it work for you...really?
When I've tried this approach—and I have tried—I'm usually still feeling anxious. I plead with God for peace and eventually settle for believing peace will come.
Receive true peace
A few years ago I learned that the center verse, Philippians 4:6, is encased in a praise and thanksgiving "sandwich." Paul doesn't start with, "Don't worry, just ask God and you'll be happy." He starts with "Rejoice in the Lord always." Then, knowing we'll probably skip right over this exhortation to rejoice, he repeats himself, "I will say it again: Rejoice!"
Paul makes it clear. First praise in joy, adjust our attitude to gentleness, and focus on Jesus' Presence. Then...and only then...he tells us not to be anxious and to present our requests with thanksgiving. Why with thanksgiving? I think Paul wants us to thank Jesus for what he is already doing even when it is still invisible in our circumstances.
The peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. The picture Paul paints is that of a garrison of soldiers, a garrison of peace in this case, marching around our hearts and minds to pretect them. God's peace is active!
The peace recipe
- Rejoice: Praise God, praise Jesus, praise the Holy Spirit
- Focus on Jesus: Adjust your attitude and direct your eyes on Jesus' Presence
- Ask: Simply tell God what you need, what's bothering you, etc.
- Give thanks: Thank God for what he is already doing. He's answered your prayer...you're living toward the answer. Thank Jesus for the victory and the circumstances.
What is making you anxious? What's keeping you up at night? Where do you struggle without peace?
Try God's praise and thank recipe for peace in the midst of any circumstance!