How does praying with thanksgiving combat our anxiety? That’s the subject of today’s post. Philippians 4:6-7 has been teaching us God’s prescription for anxiety. In the first post we observed the command “Do not be anxious.” Step 1 in fighting anxiety is to worry about nothing. Yesterday’s post then addressed Step 2, which is to pray about everything. We noticed four specific ways to pray, but particularly focused on what is the key, but often missing, ingredient in prayer: deliberate, consistent thanksgiving.
What will be the result of this kind of prayer? The peace of God will take control of our heart and mind, forcing anxious thoughts to flee and keeping new ones from entering in. This wins specific battles with anxiety in an immediate way, but something else is needed for the long-term war (that will be tomorrow’s post). Today let’s rejoice in the inner peace that comes through prayer. It has three characteristics.
- It is an indescribable calm (“surpasses all comprehension”). First, it is a calm that defies description. It cannot be fully understood. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful” (John 14:27). Jesus offers an indescribable calm in place of our fears. Sometimes, as it is with me, this peace comes not only from private prayer, but its fullness remains elusive until I seek out other believers to pray with me.
- It protects emotional and mental stability (“guard your hearts and your minds”). The second characteristic of this peace is that it protects emotional and mental stability. It “shall guard your hearts and your minds.” The word “guard” is a military word. It refers to a garrison of soldiers on duty. Paul used it in 2 Corinthians 11:32 when he described the governor of Damascus who was “guarding the city.” In other words, the city was surrounded by sentries. While we pray with thanksgiving, God dispatches a whole garrison of soldiers to surround our heart and protect it from anxious thoughts and worries, thus keeping them from disturbing our peace and, therefore, preserving mental health. This reminds us of Isaiah 26:3, “You will keep Him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You.” God will keep us in perfect peace when our mind is focused on Him. Why? Because we trust in Him.
- It uniquely belongs to believers (“in Christ Jesus”). The third characteristic of this peace is that it uniquely belongs to believers. It guards the hearts and minds of those “in Christ Jesus.” In other words, this indescribable calm cannot be experienced by the unsaved person because peace is only found “in Christ.” Let me say it another way: If you are not at peace with God then you cannot experience the peace of God. Being at peace with God means that you know in your heart that your sins have justly been dealt with on the Cross of Calvary and you are trusting in Jesus Christ as your crucified and risen Lord and Savior. He is the One who has made peace with God for you. He is your one and only Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). This is the status of peace that Paul writes of in Romans 5:1, “Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Are you at peace with God? If not, you will never experience the peace of God that will overcome your anxiety. This peace is in Christ. Turn to Him today. If you already know and love Christ then rest in the peace He has already provided.
As we learn to cast all our cares upon God in prayer His peace will force anxiety out of our mind and heart—leaving no room to be consumed with worry. God-dependent prayer is the answer. So, go to Him in prayer and let Him send His peace to set up a guard around your heart that says to worry, “You are not allowed here. Do not disturb the peace.”