The verses above are taken from a larger passage found here in Phillipians 4:4-7. Be sure to read the whole paragraph. In fact, the more you read around that section, the more it will give you insight into where this command comes from.
Where was Paul when he wrote this? In an ivory tower? No. In prison.
It is not a cold-hearted command from someone sitting in an ivory tower telling people not to be anxious. Paul was writing to this church from prison. There is no doubt he would have preferred to be traveling to visit these churches to see them in person. But God’s plan for him at this time was for him to be in prison writing to them. For an active man like Paul, it must have been difficult and stressful, naturally speaking, to be in this position. He had no control over his situation. His command was to pray about everything. I think that command came from his own experience as well as God’s inspiration. He was learning it everyday.
How does praying (to God) about everything help anxiety?
When we pray, we are not talking to ourselves, we are talking to the God of the universe! He has all the resources to answer our prayers at His fingertips. But He has the wisdom to know the timing of when and how to answer our prayers as well. By praying to Him and giving Him all our concerns and cares, we can let Him take care of all our concerns for us since He knows the future. He knows what is best for us in the long run.
Why does He recommend praying about everything? So you can experience His peace that is beyond understanding. It is the kind of peace that guards both your heart and your mind…from anxiety, fear, worry, and a host of other negative emotions. Take a look in the next paragraph after this one in chapter 4:8-9. It talks about what we are to think about: the true, the honorable, the just, the pure, the lovely, etc. What we spend our time thinking about makes a difference when it comes to anxiety or not having anxiety.
Are we thinking about the worst that can happen? The catastrophic? That can only lead to more anxiety and fear. Or are we trusting God for our present and future. Are we trusting Him to care for us even when the worst things actually do happen? Are we trusting Him to carry us one day at a time through life, rather than anticipate problems that never come?
Are we to pray that all the bad things will go away?
God’s command through Paul is to pray about everything. He doesn’t tell us to pray that it will go away. Paul didn’t seem to pray that. Well, he prayed it initially, but learned to accept that God’s will was that some of his requests like that weren’t going to be answered with a “yes.” Instead, God promised to give Him grace to endure his thorn in the flesh II Corinthians 12:7-10. He wasn’t going to get out of prison right away either. But God gave him a contented and joyful spirit that you find throughout this book despite his circumstances. It starts here in Philippians 1:3-6. But you will find these themes throughout the book. Many of his guards came to know Christ because of their contact with Paul. I’m sure it had to do with the reality of his walk with God, his praying about everything, and his willingness to think about the good, lovely and pure rather than the difficult, hard, and unfair things in his life.
- Take a few minutes to skim the book of Philippians. It is a very short book. What are some common themes? Jot them down. Do these (positive) themes give you any insight into help with anxiety? If so, jot them down.
- What insights have you gained from reading these Biblical passages? From reading through Philippians in light of the fact that Paul was writing from prison, not an ivory tower? Jot down what you have learned.
- Write down a summary statement of what you are learning about what God had to say about solutions to anxiety from a Biblical perspective.
- How do you plan to put what you are learning into practice?