Don’t Worry, Pray!

Title: Don’t Worry, Pray!

Text: Philippians 4:6-7

Time: November 21st, 2004

Every year around this time we celebrate the holiday called Thanksgiving. It started as a remembrance of the early settlers here from Europe who were just thankful to be alive, to survive, after a long voyage by ship over the ocean, and then surviving the wilderness in the New World with the help of the Indians. Well, you know the story. It’s a good holiday because it causes us to think about the many things we have to be thankful for. I know that at times it’s hard to be thankful, especially when everything seems to go wrong in your life, but believe it or not there are plenty of things to be thankful for, no matter how many problems you are experiencing. You may be going through hard times right now, and even if you aren’t, you will in the future face times of difficulties and problems. If you know how to give thanks even in the midst of difficulties you have learned one of the secrets of life. Now thanksgiving is a great time of the year because it teaches us again to give thanks, to count our blessings, to focus on what we have, not what we don’t have. I remember the movie Apollo 13, and how all of a sudden the spaceship and the crew suddenly began to experience problems all at once. There were explosions, parts flying off the spaceship, and well, it was bad, really bad. That’s when one of the astronauts says those famous words, “Houston we have a problem.” Remember that movie? Remember that phrase? But believe it or not those astronauts made it back to earth safely because they began to focus on what they still had and made the best of things rather than focus on all their problems thousands of miles in space. And that’s what Thanksgiving teaches us each year – to focus on what we have, not what we don’t have. In the movie, after all the problems started happening one of the guys said calmly, “Ok, let’s review things. What do we have that is working here?” That’s a good perspective to remember in your life, even when things, especially when things are going wrong, “What do I have that is working in my life?” That is exactly what the Apostle Paul teaches in the New Testament in Philippians 4:6-7, in different words. Let me read it to you: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, 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.” I’d like to say a few things about this passage because I believe that if we can remember it in whatever circumstances we are facing in life, things will go better.

First, don’t be anxious about anything but in everything pray. Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Our world is filled with all kinds of things to be anxious and worry about, and if our own personal lives aren’t filled with enough worry we can flip on the television news and learn about other things around the world to be anxious about. Worry is a natural reaction to things that cause us to be fearful. Now since we all know what worry is, and experience it life, what can we do to deal with it? The Bible answers that question by instructing us to pray about everything. Now for some people that’s a new thought. Some people have been trained in a certain kind of religion that teaches that you only pray in church or on special occasions, and you only pray formal prayers. But that won’t work because we aren’t in church most of our lives and the prayers there don’t cover all of our problems. We have to learn to pray all kinds of prayers about all kinds of things, and because worry comes in all forms so too our prayers must cover all kinds of issues. What Paul is teaching us here is to figure out what we are worrying about and pray about those very things. That’s how we can stop being anxious. That’s how we can deal successfully with anxiety. If you don’t do it, try it. Make a list of all the things that are causing you to be anxious and worry. Once you write down that list, then go item by item and pray through the list to God. For example, if you are worried about a big car repair bill because something is wrong with you car and you are afraid and worried that you can’t afford to pay it, pray over that concern. I remember one time about six years ago I was out in Colorado heading to the mountains to ski. I was half way there when all of a sudden while driving through a little mountain town named Fairplay my car engine suddenly stopped, just stopped. Well, to make a long story short, I never did make it to the mountain. I had to stay the night in Fairplay while my car was being repaired in the only garage in town. I didn’t have much money so I was worried that it would be a huge repair bill. I prayed for about an hour. The next day I got the bill and it was affordable! I couldn’t believe it. But praying for that problem let me sleep that night without worrying all night. Try it. It works. You can either worry about something or pray about something, but you can’t do both. Why not pray instead of worry?

Second, include thanksgiving in your prayers. Philippians 4:6, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” Now this is where the tie-in with the Thanksgiving holiday comes in. We forget when we are facing problems, difficulties, and when things go wrong, that not everything is bad, there are some good things going on too. A lot of times we’ll be so focused on the problem that we’ll forget to give thanks for the good things, because we are so focused on the bad. I can never understand people who get into an auto accident, just escaping injury or even death, and all you hear them doing is moaning and groaning about their car “Look at my car, I just bought that. That’s going to raise my insurance rates for certain.” I wanted to say, “Look. You just escaped injury or even death and all you are thinking about is your car? Get a perspective. Learn to count your blessings.” Which brings up a really great song that I’ve heard in church growing up as a child. It’s called Count Your Blessing. It goes like this: “When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, when you are discouraged thinking all us lost. Count your many blessings name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done. Count your blessings name them one by one, Count your blessings see what God has done. Count your blessings, name them one by one, Count your many blessings see what God has done.” Have you learned the secret of counting your blessings? It’s easy, no matter what you are going through. There are times in life when things all of a sudden all just seem to go wrong, and in those times you need to, you must, get a perspective or else you’ll go crazy. What I do, what the Bible teaches, is to count my blessings. So I do. Ok, let’s see. I live in the best country in the world, maybe of all time. I’m free, not in jail. I’m healthy as far as I know (now if you have health problems, you can always thank God you aren’t worse), I’ve got food on the table (some people in the world are hungry), I’ve got a roof over my head (some people are out on the streets). If you have a job, thank God for that in a time and place here in Jamestown where jobs aren’t that easy to find. I thank God that my name is written in the Book of Life in heaven for eternal life, so I’ve got these things, for example, going for me. You just go down the list of things you are thankful for and it changes your perspective. Instead of a negative, down and out person, it lifts your spirit. Giving thanks is what thanksgiving is all about, which is probably why God wants us to participate in it regularly.

Third, because of prayer and thanksgiving God’s peace floods our soul. Philippians 4:7, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Jesus said, “My peace I give unto you, not as the world do I give it unto you.” The peace of God comes into our hearts and minds after we pray over all our problems and give thanks for what good things we have because it lifts our thoughts off our problems and ourselves and onto God. God is always someone that we can count on to give us courage and strength. If everything else goes wrong, there is always God; we still have Jesus. What did Jesus say, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” No matter how bad things get, things are never too bad not to pray. I know it can be hard to pray sometimes in the midst of troubles and trials and problems, but pray is always just a breath away. It doesn’t take much to pray. The shortest prayer in the entire Bible is a prayer that the disciple Peter called out to Jesus, “Lord help!” as he was starting to drown on the sea. But we usually have more time to pray longer prayers. Most of our problems aren’t so pressing that we can’t get alone and cry out to God and put them all in His hands, and relieve the burden of our soul. I feel a lot better when I pray about things as opposed to when I don’t. If I skip praying about something I feel that edge of panic, worry, anxiety, pressure, etc. But when I’m prayed up over something, I’m calm. I’m at peace. Sometimes we just plain forget the peace that prayer brings. I remember many times that I’ll pray with somebody over some issue in their life and they’ll start feeling better immediately after the prayer. I mean right away! A lot of the worry and anxiety goes right away immediately. Then they turn to me and say, “You know, I could have done that a long time ago, I could have been praying like that before but I just didn’t and spent the time worrying. How foolish.” Sometimes we just forget to pray. Let’s make a point to remember. Now I don’t know all the details of your life this morning, but let me say whatever problems you face today if you will take the time to pray about them thoroughly, and remember to count your blessings, God promises you that peace will come where there was fear and anxiety. Why not start bringing prayer into your life more and more, and getting rid of a lot of the worry?

Let’s pray

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