If anybody had an excuse for worrying, it was the Apostle Paul. His beloved Christian friends at Philippi were disagreeing with one another and he was not there to help them. We have no idea what Euodia and Syntyche were disputing about, but whatever it was, it was bringing division into the church. Along with the potential division at Philippi, Paul had to face division among the believers at Rome (Phil. 1:14–17). Added to these burdens was the possibility of his own death! Yes, Paul had a good excuse to worry—but he did not! Instead, he took time to explain to us the secret of victory over worry.
What is worry? The Greek word translated “anxious” in 4:6 means “to be pulled in different directions.” Our hopes pull us in one direction; our fears pull us in the opposite direction; and we are pulled apart! The Old English root from which we get our word “worry” means “to strangle.” If you have ever really worried, you know how it does strangle a person! In fact, worry has definite physical consequences: headaches, neck pains, ulcers, even back pains. Worry affects our thinking, our digestion, and even our coordination.
From the spiritual point of view, worry is wrong thinking (the mind) and wrong feeling (the heart) about circumstances, people, and things. Worry is the greatest thief of joy. It is not enough for us, however, to tell ourselves to “quit worrying” because that will never capture the thief. Worry is an “inside job” and it takes more than good intentions to get the victory. The antidote to worry is the secure mind. When we have the secure mind, the peace of God guards us (4:7) and the God of peace guides us (4:9). With that kind of protection—why worry? If we are to conquer worry and experience the secure mind, we must meet the conditions God has laid down.
Right Praying (4:6–7)
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.
Paul does not write, “Pray about it!” He is too wise to do that. He uses three different words to describe “right praying”: prayer, supplication, and thanksgiving. “Right praying” involves all three. The word prayer is the general word for making requests known to the Lord. It carries the idea of adoration, devotion, and worship. Whenever we find ourselves worrying, our first action ought to be to get alone with God and worship Him. Adoration is what is needed. We must see the greatness and majesty of God! We must realize He is big enough to solve our problems. Too often, we rush into His presence and hastily tell Him our needs, when we ought to approach His throne calmly and in deepest reverence. The first step in “right praying” is adoration.
The second is supplication, an earnest sharing of our needs and problems. There is no place for halfhearted, insincere prayer! We know we are not heard for our “meaningless repetition” (Matt. 6:7–8), but we still realize our Father wants us to be earnest in our asking (Matt. 7:1–11). This is the way Jesus prayed in the Garden (Heb. 5:7) and while His closest disciples were sleeping, He was sweating great drops of blood! Supplication is not a matter of carnal energy, but of spiritual intensity (Rom. 15:30; Col. 4:12).
After adoration and supplication comes appreciation, giving thanks to God (Eph. 5:20; Col. 3:15–17). Certainly the Father enjoys hearing His children say, “Thank You!” When Jesus healed ten lepers, only one of the ten returned to give thanks (Lk. 17:11–19), and we wonder if the percentage is any higher today. We are eager to ask, but slow to appreciate!
We must note “right praying” is not something every Christian can do immediately because “right praying” depends on the right kind of mind. This is why Paul’s formula for peace is found at the end of Philippians and not at the beginning. If we have the single mind of Philippians 1 then we can give adoration. (How can a double-minded person ever praise God?) If we have the submissive mind of Philippians 2, we can come with supplication. (Would a person with a proud mind ask God for something?) If we have the spiritual mind of Philippians 3, we can show our appreciation. (A worldly minded person would not know God had given him anything to appreciate!) In other words, we must practice Philippians 1, 2, and 3 if we are going to experience the secure mind of Philippians 4.
Paul counsels us to take “everything to God in prayer.” “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything!” is his admonition (4:6). We are prone to pray about the “big things” in life and forget to pray about the so-called “little things”—until they grow and become big things! Talking to God about everything that concerns us and Him is the first step toward victory over worry.
The result is the “peace of God” guards the heart and mind. Just as Paul was chained to a Roman soldier, guarded day and night, in like manner, “the peace of God” stands guard over the two areas that create worry—the heart (wrong feeling) and the mind (wrong thinking). When we give our hearts to Christ in salvation, we experience “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1); but the “peace of God” takes us a step farther into His blessings. This does not mean the absence of trials on the outside, but it does mean a quiet confidence within, regardless of circumstances, people, or things.
Daniel gives us a wonderful illustration of peace through prayer. When the king announced that none of his subjects were to pray to anyone except the king, Daniel went to his room, opened his windows, and prayed as before (Dan. 6:1–10). Notice how Daniel prayed. He “prayed, and gave thanks before his God” (v. 10) and he made supplication (Dan. 6:11). Prayer—supplication—thanksgiving! And the result was perfect peace in the midst of difficulty! Daniel was able to spend the night with the lions in perfect peace, while the king in his palace could not sleep (Dan. 6:18).
In Part 2, we will look at two more conditions God has laid down to conquer worry and experience the secure mind: right thinking and right living.