April 20, 2013

The Active Ingredient in Prayer

"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." Philippians 4.6-7

Life is full of worries and obstacles isn’t it? Sometimes they feel like a giant rash that just won’t go away. We squirm and scratch. We scrape and rub. But the itchiness of anxiety only gets worse! What we need is an ointment from God that would clear away the redness and the swelling of our souls. And Paul says that the ointment is prayer, leading to peace.

If we would come to God with our itching and irritation of heart … and if we would be honest with Him about how we feel and what we need … the word of God promises us peace! Hope and calm is guaranteed if we would but apply the ointment of earnest, honest prayer! That’s not to say all our problems will magically disappear in a moment. But our anxiety about them needn’t stay (I’m preaching to myself, you understand). Believing prayer, which refocuses our attention on Him who is really in control, is a full-proof medicine for the itch of anxiety. Would that I applied it more!

But I want you to notice something very important in Philippians 4.6-7. The effectiveness of the medicine—"the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension”—is in some ways dependent upon whether or not our prayers are offered “with thanksgiving!” Thanksgiving is one of the active ingredients in the ointment of prayer. If we pray without thanksgiving, we may be simply smoothing lotion onto the skin of our souls. We may feel good for a moment as we massage our own wounds—but there is no true and heavenly medicine in prayers offered with an ungrateful heart.

You see, thanksgiving—especially when we are in the midst of trials—is a test of whether or not we really believe that God knows what is best! If we do not trust God, we may still go to Him in prayer—but merely out of habit. Ours will be murmuring, complaining, and questioning hearts—not thankful ones. On the other hand, the heart that really trusts God is able to take its itchiness to God and say something like this:

Lord, I am really itchy and uncomfortable right now. In fact, I hurt all over. But I know You love me and have good plans for me. You’ve proven it over and over in the past, and especially at the cross. And I trust that somehow, through my irritation, you will do me good again. Thank you for loving me so faithfully. Please give me peace now. Please ease the swelling and soothe the irritation of my heart. Amen.

Let me encourage you to trust God—and yes, to find reasons to thank God—in the midst of your trials. Prayer is wonderful medicine if we do not rob it of its active ingredient!

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