I can remember praying often as a young boy growing up in the church. I’d talk to God about all sorts of issues or actions in my life. On occasion our family would pray together but not much beyond the meal time. Later as a teen, I remember the first time my pastor asked me to pray publicly church. I was nervous and stumbled over words asking God to bless our giving. That began many opportunities for me to pray publicly in church settings. Learning to pray is not easy but it is simple. Prayer is simple as talking to God, but the challenge is we are not certain God is listening.
Today’s message will share how prayer to God is related to everyday issues of life. Hopefully, this Scripture will motivate you to pray for frequently and fervently.
EXAMINE Philippians 4:1-7 Prayer Is Our Freedom
The church at Philippi was one of Paul’s joyful ministries. His joy was in their gospel partnership (Php 1:3-6). The Philippians were a faithful partner to Paul in prayer (Php 1:19) and generous financial support for Paul’s mission trips (Php 4:15-16). Paul calls the Philippian Christians his “joy and crown” and has specific prayer for them to live out the implications of the gospel with a devoted faith in Jesus Christ (Php 3:1-11) and a celebrated freedom in grace and spiritual growth (Php 3:12, ff.).
Prayer facilitates freedom in our dysfunction (Php 4:1-3).
The Philippian church was a good church but it was not exempt from conflict. In fact, every church is one relationship away from hurt feelings, conflict, division, disunity and disaster. Christian unity is gained slowly but lost quickly. All it takes is a few simple words and conversations to upset relational unity.
Euodia & Syntyche had some sort of disagreement. It is not known what the issue was, only that Paul pleaded and prayed for them to reconcile for the sake of the gospel. Christian unity is not just to be a happy family, but it is to reflect the character of Christ to a lost world.
- The issue was unnamed. Paul pleads with each woman separately, as if to not take sides or show favoritism. Paul has little issue identifying conflicts elsewhere, therefore it’s likely this issue was inconsequential for eternity (names written in book of life; Php 4:3) and both parties need to submit to one another in forgiving grace and work together for the gospel. Other times an issue is important and must be confronted with compassion according to Matthew 18.
- The citizens of the Roman colony of Philippi who have their names recorded in a civic register of citizens know that they have a duty to live in harmony and peace with one another. Likewise, the citizens of the colony of heaven who have their names written in the book of life are called by their Lord above all powers to live in peace with one another.
- The ladies were named. Paul’s letter would be read to entire church, naming these ladies publicly for their conflict. It is assumed these ladies would not address their conflict without the assistance of others. Being named, they would have no choice but to deal with the dysfunction in Christian maturity or be disciplined by the body of believers.
The “true companion” to help these women was likely Timothy or Epaphroditus (cf. 2:19-30), or perhaps the Philippian church overseers and deacons (1:1).
- Leaders can disappoint. These ladies may have been leaders in the church but they were setting a bad example. Likewise, any leader should not have unqualified loyalty but should be accountable to others personally, the church (or organization) as a whole, and ultimately to the Lord Jesus.
- On a series for prayer, why discuss dysfunctional relationships? Prayers are often hindered and unanswered for series of dysfunctional relationships. I/we want to see God move in a powerful way through our church these next few months. If you do as well, then you will give attention to the dysfunction in your relationships so our prayers may not be hindered.
- Matthew 5:23-24 Reconciliation > Religious Routines
- James 4:1-12 Conflict handicaps our communication with Christ
- 1Peter 3:7 Discord with spouse creates detachment from prayer and God.
- Challenge to pray for church
- Pray at 10 O’clock AM/PM since October is 10th Oct 19-21 ZUME
- Pray with 2 people each week over phone or in person.
Prayer facilitates freedom in our depression (Php 4:4-5).
Paul continues exhorting the Philippians to pray not just about dysfunction but everyday depressions. The remedy for depression is learning to rejoice. Paul gives this command twice, and qualifies it saying it should be done always, because God is near. Paul’s letter to the Philippians is known as the letter of joy because of it’s frequent usage (13x).
Depression has the power to distort reality, cloud your judgment, create cynicism, and cause you to feel like walking in the darkness of Divine absence. Depression makes you passive but devotion to God stirs you to fight for joy. To note, Paul isn’t saying life is always happy, which is an emotion determined by our circumstances. Instead, Paul commands joyfulness, which is a decision not based on circumstances (Paul is in prison cell not Café Rome!) but on hope in Christ’s resurrection power (3:10) and trust in Christ’s care for every detail of your life (4:11-13). So, rejoicing in the Lord is not a pedestrian mindset but is instead the paradigm by which sustains a Christian; “for the joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh 8:10).
Further observations from Scripture and the Savior regarding stress, anxiety, depression, grief.
- Reflect on God’s pruning intention behind your difficulty.
“For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer. I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover the iniquity of my sin.” (Psalm 32:3-5)
- Affirm the work of doctors and counselors.
“Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.” (Mat 9:12)
Proverbs 11:14 “Where there is no guidance people fall, but in abundance of counselors there is safety.”
Proverbs 12:15 “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”
Proverbs 20:5 “The purpose in a man’s heart is like deep water, but a man of understanding draws it out.”
Luke was a “beloved physician” (Col 4:14)
- Spend time alone to reflect, even weep.
“when Jesus heard [of John’s death], he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself.” (Mat 14:13)
“Jesus wept” (John 11:35)
- Spend time together with friends eating food and serving them.
“when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father… he loved them to the end… If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John 13:1, 14)
- Share soul concerns with your closest friends.
“Taking with him Peter and two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled.” (Mat 26:37-38)
- Requesting your friends to pray for and support you in challenges.
“he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here and watch with me.’” (Mat 26:38)
- Pour your heart out in prayer to God.
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me” (Mat 26:39)
- Trust God’s wisdom and will.
“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” (Mat 26:39)
“Though he slay me, I will hope in him” (Job 13:15)
- Recognize the fruit of hardship can soften hardness to advance the gospel.
“I want you to know brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (Philippians 1:12)
“you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive” (Genesis 50:20)
- Joyfully obey God in every circumstance, even in suffering.
“For the joy that was set before him, Christ endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2)
- Above all, know the Lord is near to save and sustain.
“The Lord is near the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. (Psalm 34:18-19)
“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2Corinthians 12:9)
- If you struggle with depression:
- Look up in joyful prayer to God.
- Look out in counsel and necessary medications in concert with a spiritual focus.
- SPBC counsel network with Life Christian Counseling / Heart Song Counseling.
- SPBC counsel network with Life Christian Counseling / Heart Song Counseling.
Prayer facilitates freedom in our anxiety (Php 4:6-7).
Paul’s further exhortation is not to be anxious (μεριμνάω: distracted or pulled apart, divided). Anxiety will pull us apart physically: shaking hands or legs, increased heart rate, shortness of breath, sweating, frustration, fear, anger – all symptoms of our bodies feeling the weight of stress and anxiety. Anxiety assumes the worst case scenario will happen and disregards the foundation that faith in the Heavenly Father has all things under His control (Mat 6).
- Crying to God (44 mentions in Psalms).
- Ps 5:2 “Give attention to the sound of my cry, my King and my God, for to you do I pray.”
- Ps 6:6 “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with weeping.”
- Ps 18:6 “In my distress I called upon the Lord; to my God I cried for help. From his temple he heard my voice and my cry reached his ears.”
- Ps 34:15 “The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry.”
- Ps 56:8 “God keeps count of my tossings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?”
- Rev 21:4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death, sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.”
- A lot of anxiety can be relieved just by crying – to the Lord.
- Alone Show Men crying but they find their identity/purpose.
- Me with _____ youth retreats; often not a good trip without someone crying; often a hint of evidence God is bringing conviction and pruning to that person, or just overwhelmed with God’s glory.
Again, anxiety is a passive emotion that must be attacked with the truths and promises of God. We move from worriers to warriors when we turn our problems over to prayer and thanksgiving to God. When we learn to pray like this, we have the peace of God that passes all understanding. We must work anxiety to our advantage by allowing it to drive us to our knees in prayer to God.
- A lof of research notes how multi-tasking is unhealthy and actually unproductive. Our minds can generally focus on one thing. If evidence is true, what is one characteristic about God that your mind can focus on that will help you when you worry? Reflect and find a key Scripture that you can return to again and again.
Isaiah 26:3 “You will keep in perfect peace, him whose mind is fixed on God.”
- Prayer, Petition, Thanksgiving
- Prayer – intercession
- Petition/supplication – urgent prayer to meet immediate needs
- “with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Unbelievers are known to be ungrateful (Rom 1:21; 2Tim 3:2), whereas the Christian has a posture of praise to God for His grace and mercy.
à List 10/100 items you are thankful for and can rejoice in the Lord.
- “peace of God” Our issue is too often we want peace without God, so we don’t pray because we know His answers will direct our decisions in ways we simply don’t want.
- God doesn’t worry. He never gets anxious or afraid. He isn’t ever surprised or stumped. God is a rock and refuge. He is salvation and strength.
- Ps 46:2-5 “though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy habitation of the Most High. God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved.”
- Story of a father who was always busy at work and when home he was busy reading newspaper. One morning the 7 year old son came crawling up to father and asked him to play. But the father dismissed the boy bc he was busy reading the newspaper. After repeated attempts from the boy to get his father’s attention, the father thought he had a stroke of genius seeing a full page world map in the paper. The father cut the page out, cut the map into smaller pieces and handed it to his son to put together. “Son, when you put the world back together we can go play and have some fun.” Assuming he had occupied the boy for a long duration of time, the father returned reading the paper.
However, after 5 minutes the boy returned with the world map all taped back together. The father was surprised at the boys geography skill and asked how he was able to recreate it so quickly. The son replied,
“It was simple Dad, there is a picture of a gift box on the back. When I got the gift right, I got the world right.”
Too often we preoccupied with purposeless and worthless agendas that we miss the purpose and value of being in the presence of God. When we understand and get the gift of life correct, then so many other things in the world will adapt and align in just the right order.
- What’s your gift and treasure in life? Without peace with God you cannot have peace of God.
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 G. Walter Hansen, The Pillar NT Commentary, Philippians 4:2.
 1:4; 1:18; 1:18; 1:25; 2:2; 2:17; 2:18; 2:28; 2:29; 3:1; 4:1; 4:4; 4:4.