“I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” – Philippians 1:3-6 (ESV)
Our passage for today comes from the letter sent to members of the body of Christ, believers in Philippi. In the way that all letters from all apostles in the first century, this letter would be shared with churches near to Philippi. Eventually copied and shared to the whole world by being included in the New Testament. At the time Christians who first received this letter lived under Roman government and have very little religious freedoms. Paul’s letter intended to be an encouragement for us. When we experience times of doubt, we might wonder if it is worth it all. So much conflict, aggression, hate, and lies exist in our world. As Christians we too pray for each other just as Paul prayed for the Philippians. What he had heard about them brought Paul much joy. It was a delight for Paul to intercede for fellow believers. Paul had a confidence which is our promise too. It is God who began the work of salvation in our lives and it is God who will complete that job one day, the day of Jesus Christ, which looks to our final salvation, reward, and glorification.
“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.” 1 John 5:14 (ESV)
Knowing that God has promised eternal life when we believed on the name of the Son of God, gives us confidence and certainty in our lives as Christians. We have a wonderful promise today but we need to be careful to understand it rightly. Many these days speak of “praying” for others. People reach out to friends and friends of friends asking for prayer and receive assurances that the “prayers are being sent up.” But can just anyone who prays know for certain that God even hears? Does God answer and deliver on any and all prayers?” Our verse today gives us confidence that God will hear us but consider this very important condition. “…that if we ask anything according to His will…” To pray according to God’s will is to pray in accord with what He has told us He wants, not simply what we decide or desire we need. God may not respond to prayer made by those who do not believe on Him. God does not respond or answer prayers that are contrary to His will. God hears the prayers which are according to His will, not just according to our will only.
“Blessed be God, Who has not turned away my prayer Nor His lovingkindness from me.” Psalm 66:20 (NASB)
Perhaps there are times when we feel as if God has not heard our prayers or maybe rejected them. God always hears the prayers of those who abide in Him and love Him. As so many of the songs we have in the book of Psalms in our Bible, this is an expression by the writer about what God had done for him. Written many centuries ago we can still believe this promise and it can become our own expression of praise to God. We know that God hears and answers our prayers and even in those times when we receive an answer different than our request, we know that God has not rejected our prayer. He may have answered it in a different way than we expected or hoped, but we know it is in a way that is best for us because He loves us and he does not withhold his love from us. Our promise today is that He has not rejected our prayer, and because he loves us so much, he has given us an answer that is better for us. Let’s trust Him today and enjoy His love for us.
“Before they call I will answer; while they are yet speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24 (ESV)
Each of us carries burdens that drive us to seek help and answers from God. So we talk to Him in our prayers⸺both spoken and thoughts which we address to our Lord God. How then, do we perceive that God hears our prayers? We know He does because the Bible tells us that the effective prayer offered with clear conscience and relationship with God will be answered and bring about much in the way of answers. Sometimes we may talk about heaven being so far away. However, it is within speaking distance to those who belong there. The greater context of this verse is about a time yet to be. But we see a promise in this verse even for us today. We are promised that God knows our prayers before we speak them and he both hears and answers them according to His will⸺as we learn elsewhere in the Scriptures. Whatever we ask, according to God’s will, we receive to the glory of God. So it is in this promise today. God answers before we even call and hears before we even voice our requests. Yet, we continue to pray according to the will of God.
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:6-7 (NASB)
This is a powerful passage and we have considered its promises before.. It’s is a good time to consider again the instruction that our God has given to us through the inspiration of His Spirit. We seem to be overdosing on anxiety these days. We find it expressed by nearly everyone. Especially in the United States following the recent Presidential election. Results are up in the air and there is a pretty fierce battle going on. The end results will bring satisfaction to only about half of the American population. The command is blatantly clear. Do not be anxious for any reason about anything at all. Instead, take the concerns you have to God in your prayers. And in your prayers, plead for what is good and Godly and be thankful God hears your prayers. Then what? Then, a peace that comes from God will stand guard over your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. Garding against the hate, bitterness, worry, and despair that may be filling your time. No, there is no explanation. This peace is beyond our understanding. But it is the Word of God and He promises this peace if we obey these instructions.