19 September 2007

It is well with my soul (Philippians 4:6-7)--part 2

Part 1 here.


Well, after Paul cautions against worrying, he CALLS US TO PRAYER.
Verse 6b.
…in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God…

What should we pray about? EVERYTHING! Let all of your requests about everything be made known to GOD. How do we do that? Through prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving.

First, PRAYER. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer Now follow me here. Many people think of prayer as a way of changing GOD’s mind. You see these bumper stickers and license plates that say “Prayer changes things” and “GOD answers prayers.” These things are true. But, “prayer changes things” according to how GOD wants them to be. And “GOD answers prayers” according to His will. Romans 8:26—…we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us… Matthew 6:8“…your Father knows what things you have need of, before you ask him.” So, if GOD knows what we need, and the Holy Spirit actually does the praying for us, then what is prayer for? Prayer is not about US changing GOD’s mind. Prayer is about GOD changing OUR hearts.

We pray TO the Father IN THE NAME OF the Son, THROUGH the Holy Spirit. When Jesus taught us to pray, how did He say we should start? “Our Father which art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy name…” And the word Paul uses in Philippians 4:6 for prayer means more than just getting on your knees and saying your bedtime prayers. It refers to a more worshipful type of prayer.
  • It’s the type of prayer Jesus meant when He told the moneychangers in the temple in Luke 19:46“It is written, My house is the house of prayer…” The temple was where people went to worship.
  • Matthew 21:22“Whatsoever you shall ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive.” Whatever you ask for in order to worship GOD, He will give it to you.
  • Luke 22:45—And when he rose up from prayer, and was come to his disciples, he found them sleeping for sorrow… The prayer Jesus offered up the night before He was crucified was a prayer of worship.
So, when we have something troubling us, and Paul says to take it to GOD in prayer, he’s not saying we should just tell GOD what’s on our mind. When Paul here tells us in everything through prayer… he’s really saying, “in everything, through worship…” GOD knows what you need. We don’t know what to say. So we just bow down and worship His greatness and His glory. Our prayers should not be—and don’t misunderstand what I’m saying here—our prayers should not be centered on ourselves and our comfort. Our prayers should be centered about GOD’s will being done in us and through us. Should we pray for Aunt Suzie’s cancer to be healed? Yes. But GOD may not cure that cancer. It may not be His will that her cancer gets healed. And we have to be ready to accept that.

We read the story of Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. Most people know them as Shadrach, Mishach and Abed-nego. You won't find many in the Bible with more faith in GOD than these guys. But listen to what they say in Daniel 3:17-18—“…our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if he doesn't, Your Majesty can be sure that we will never serve your gods or worship the gold statue you have set up.” Paul says in Philippians 1:20-21—…Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. When we are seeking GOD through the tough times, we need to acknowledge that He is in control, and it is HIS will that is to be done.

First, there’s prayer. Second, there’s SUPPLICATION. …in everything by prayer and supplication That word “supplication” is really a fancy way of saying “A request made out of a state of lack or poverty.” It’s not just a simple request. Supplication means that we come before the Lord acknowledging that we have nothing. That we are capable of nothing. We are telling Him, “Father, I need your help to get through this. And unless You help me, apart from You I have no other way.” Jesus told us in John 15:5“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” Supplication is not telling GOD, “Now, Lord, I need this, this and this.” We don’t know what we need—He does!!
In Ephesians 6:18-19, after Paul gets done listing the armor of GOD, he tells the saints at Ephesus to continue Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit…and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel… He’s saying, “I can't go preach the gospel unless GOD gives me the strength.” In Luke 18, the parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector, the Pharisee stands there and says, “I’m such a good person! GOD should be glad to have to have someone like me worship Him!” What did the tax collector do? Jesus says in Luke 18:13-14“And the tax collector…would not so much as raise his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, 'God, be merciful to me a sinner!' I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be humbled; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted.” How many times do people go to the Lord and say, “OK, GOD, here’s what you need to do…” I’ve seen it written, “Some people want to serve GOD, but only in an advisory position.” When we pray, it is not for us to tell GOD what to do. It’s for GOD to tell us what to do. …in everything, by prayer and supplication… By the connected acts of lifting GOD up and bringing ourselves down.

Prayer. Supplication. THANKSGIVING. …by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving That literally means “grateful language to GOD as an act of worship.” John Gill put it this way:
…a person [cannot] expect to succeed in the enjoyment of future mercies, when he is not thankful for past and present ones: in this manner therefore, at all times, upon every occasion, [we should give] humble petition and supplication, joined with thankfulness for all favours…

You know, sometimes the greatest blessings GOD gives us are the ones we don’t see. How many times does GOD keep us from doing something that would harm us and we don’t even know about it. How many times did GOD preserve my life—your lives—until you came to the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that you would not die before you got saved. How many times do we forget to thank Him for those hidden mercies? I'll be the first to plead guilty.

Sometimes He brings pain into our lives to protect us. Sometimes He does it to grow us. Sometimes it’s because there’s something in our lives we need to get rid of, and He’s gonna paddle our bottom until we give it up. Think about it this way: you fall down, you tear up a ligament in your knee. It hurts to walk on it. So you don’t walk on it. The guy with the tore-up knee thanks GOD for healing it. Does he thank GOD that his knee hurt so much that he couldn’t walk on it and tear it up even more? But, that pain was a gift from GOD. James 1:17—Every good and perfect gift is from above, from the Father of Lights, in whom is no variableness nor shadow of turning.

When we are faced with a struggle, the first thing we need to do is exalt the name of GOD. Then we humble ourselves in His presence. Then, we thank Him for giving us the strength to endure that hardship. Because what happens many times when someone is faced with a dilemma. A woman loses her job. If you believe what the world says, the only way she could get by is to take a job at a strip joint, or by being a prostitute. Around here, many think the only way to get by is dealing drugs. Anybody can do those things, and make money doing them. The temptation to cut that corner, to disobey GOD and trust in our own flesh and the ways of the world is strong.

And many times it’s hard to trust GOD because He doesn’t always answer right away. But listen to what Paul says in 1st Corinthians 10:13—No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. If we wait on Him, and exalt Him, and humble ourselves, and thank Him, He’ll see us through. And if we trust Him, He will comfort us. 2nd Corinthians 1:3-4—Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble… When we are doing His will, even though we may not have any material things He will not leave us, He is always with us, and that is enough to be thankful for. Besides, how can we tell others to trust in GOD if we don’t? Ever heard the song "Enough", by Chris Tomlin:

All of You is more than enough for all of me
For every thirst and every need
You satisfy me with Your love
And all I have in You is more than enough.

Now, let’s take a quick look at that little phrase, “…let your requests be made known to GOD…” GOD knows what we need. And through exalting Him, and humbling ourselves, we come to understand that what we need is more important than what we want—and that is what we ask for, and He gives it to us, because now we are praying for His will to be done. I once saw Fred Price offer a DVD series, and one of the discs was entitled, "How to get what you pray for 100% of the time." I'll save you some money here. If you want God to give you what you ask for 100% of the time, ask Him to show you His will for your life, and what He would have you to do, and He will give you what you ask for 100% of the time.


Part 3 tomorrow.

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