Philippians 4:6 New International Version (NIV) 6 Do not be anxious about  anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with  thanksgiving, - ppt video online download

A sermon on Philippians 4:6-7 by Rev Richard Keith on 26 December 2021



In Philippians chapter 4, verses 6 and 7, the apostle Paul wrote about anxiety and prayer. He said,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition and thanksgiving bring your requests to God. And the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

And there are a number of related features between them that make prayer such an effective treatment for anxiety.

For example, let’s look at anxiety. We are anxious about things we care about. We worry about people who are dear to us. We worry about a trip to the doctor or a child’s job interview or a grandchild’s flight to London, while the problems of strangers, even if we know about them, don’t keep us awake at night.

We are anxious about things that are out of our control. We worry about the weather. We worry about pandemics. We worry about the traffic and about what people think of us. A wise person once said that worry is the brain’s way of trying to solve what it can’t solve. When we feel out of control, when there is nothing else that we can do, we worry.

It’s the reason why some people don’t worry about driving to Melbourne but are nervous about flying to Auckland. Behind the wheel in the car they feel in control, but they feel anxious in a plane that is much much too heavy to possibly stay in the air. Although statistically driving is thousands of times more dangerous than flying.

In addition, we are particularly prone to anxiety when we focus on the possible negative consequences rather than on the likely positive results. I don’t like to think of myself as a pessimist. I like to think of myself as a realist. But the fact remains that most of the things I worry about have never happened. And the bad things that have happened to me over the years came without warning. So that when we worry we end up borrowing trouble from the future and paying for it in the present.

That’s right, when I describe anxiety I know what I’m talking about. But before I talk about prayer, I want to make one thing clear. Anxiety disorders are real. Some people experience irrational fears. They worry when there is nothing to worry about. And people who have suffered extreme trauma are naturally anxious when they are put in the same environment. You can’t just pray away serious mental illnesses any more than you can walk on a broken leg if you just have enough faith. You wouldn’t tell someone with a serious fracture to just get over it. We need to start having the same kind of empathy for people whose struggles are less tangible and beyond our experience. So if you suffer from chronic anxiety, the kind that regularly disturbs your sleep and makes it hard to function normally in society, you need to seek help and I can help you find it.

But for the rest of us, prayer is a great cure for worry. When I pray, I confess my faith in the God who cares for me, who cares about what I care about. My heavenly Father made me. He sent his son Jesus to rescue me. He has given my his Spirit and has blessed me beyond what I deserve. Whatever happens to me, my life is safe in his care. As 1 Peter chapter 5 verse 7 says,

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.

So we may be anxious for the things we care about, and worry for the people we care for, but we can also pray for them to the God who cares about them too.

In prayer we also confess our complete inability to control most of our life and hand over our worries to the God who controls all things. He made the world, the land, the sky, the sea, the mountains and the rivers, the sun and moon and clouds. He knows the number of the hairs on our head. Not one sparrow falls to the ground without him knowing it. We don’t understand how a plane can stay up in the sky, but the laws of physics that make it possible have been made as certain by their creator as night follows day. You are not God. You can’t solve all your problems just by thinking about them. But in prayer you can hand them over to the one who is God.

We worry more when we focus on the negative. But when we pray with thanksgiving we focus on the positive. In the simple act of gratitude we remember how much we are blessed and all the times that we have prayed and got what we asked for. In thanksgiving we remember that God is good and life is good and hate and fear and self-interest are terribly destructive and wicked.

Prayer is the answer to anxiety because prayer works. We find the courage to ask our creator for what we want and for what we need because he can do something about it. Answers in our favour are never guaranteed, but whether his answer is yes or no in his fatherly wisdom, his gift to us is his peace.

In my experience I am prone to sweat the small stuff, to worry about the little things and the thousands of problems that might result but never actually happen. But when sudden, life changing tragedy strikes and I cling to my heavenly Father, his gift is this wonderful calm in which all decision making becomes simple and I only need the courage to do what is right.

Discover that calm for yourself. As Paul said,

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition bring your requests to God. And the peace of God which surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.