- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 10, 2004

The following are excerpts of a sermon given yesterday by the Rev. Arlie Whitlow at Victory’s Crossing Church in Nokesville, Va.:

Anxiety is a disease that will rob us of the joy of living in every area of our lives. It dries us up spiritually because we are no longer expressing trust in God. Frustration over prolonged stress can also infect our relationships. We have no flexibility for mistakes and easily lash out and hurt the ones we love. It kills us physically. Doctors now have medical evidence of the damaging physical effects that prolonged anxiety can bring to our lives. The word “anxiety” in the Greek language is a compound word made of two smaller words — “divided” and “mind.”

When we are anxious, we have a divided focus, and that’s frustrating and unhealthy.

We live in a fast-paced culture, and a certain amount of stress is inevitable. In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul gives us the remedy for overcoming stress, “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 understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” We can be delivered from the terrible effects of stress and worry when we take our problems and distresses to God in prayer.

Someone said, “Anxiety and prayer are more opposed to each other than fire and water.”

Paul says, “Don’t worry about a thing. … Pray about everything.” He uses three important words that help us to see the key components for powerful praying. First, he tells us to express our needs. That’s what supplication is. A supplicant is someone who is needy. It’s not, “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep.” That’s not what this word means. It’s going deeper. Digging to the heart and opening up to tell God, “This is where I need you right now.”

Next, he tells us to make specific requests. Our requests move beyond just expressing our needs to talking to God about what we would like for him to do for us. I’m not going to spend all night crying over my needs. There comes a time in our prayers when we have to turn the corner and begin making specific requests. This means we turn from focusing on the problem, and we begin to look at the solution. God wants to know what you need, and he wants to hear the requests that you have.

Finally, spend sufficient time thanking God in advance. When we thank him before our request is answered, we are saying, “Lord, thank you for doing the work. I can’t see it right now, but I’m going to praise you for it any way.” When you thank God in advance, you begin to see with the eyes of faith and hope. When you do that, the darkness begins to lift from you mind and heart. This is what Paul and Silas did after they were whipped, chained and thrown into prison while ministering in Philippi. They were in a miserable state, but before the solution arrived, they began to praise God. That brought them through the dark hours into victory.

When we pray in that way, something marvelous takes place. The peace of God begins to guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Look again at what Paul writes in verse 7: “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The word used here, “to guard,” is a military term. It was used to describe a Roman guard standing watch over something. Since Philippi was a Roman military colony, the Philippian believers would have been familiar with the sight of a Roman guard standing his watch.

Here in this verse, we see a wonderful metaphor for peace. Peace is a guard. After we’ve spent time in prayer and the enemy of stress tries to come, peace stands there and says, “Sorry. You can’t enter here.” When fear comes, peace comes out and says, “Not on my watch. Beat it.”

When discouragement crouches in, the guard of peace arrests it and throws it out. We can all have that kind of peace if we will take the time to pray to God in this way. Isn’t that better than spending countless minutes and hours in unproductive worry?

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