One discovery a Guatemala mission trip participant will immediately conclude, the first day on site with Paradise Bound Ministries, is their deep commitment to the conviction in prayer. Such a commitment didn’t occur by accident, but from years of seeing the heart of God moved through the power of prayer.
In Philippians 4:6-7, Paul writes “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Keeping one’s focus on what’s most important, especially in a culture such as ours, is difficult, challenging, exhausting, and sometimes discouraging. Speaking personally, I confess that prayer has been a struggle, largely the result of my own independent nature that wants to tell God “I’ve got this…I’ll figure it out”, but that approach has led to much discouragement and disillusionment at times. These verses in Philippians helped me recognize the great gift we have in prayer and to realize that in discouraging times, prayer is our greatest resource.
There are two specific components noted in these verses that establish the context for a stronger prayer-based foundation. First, our prayers should be presented with thanksgiving. I’ve discovered time and time again that when expressing thanks to God through prayer, it’s nearly impossible to focus on the negative. Or, if I am having negative feelings, thanksgiving always calms my heart and grants me a different perspective on the situation. So, first and foremost, our prayers need to be seasoned with thankfulness. Second, there are two results when we bring our prayers and petitions to God. The first is that we’ll receive the peace of God. God’s peace will always quiet our hearts, draw us into his presence, and remind us that he is still in charge. Likewise, God’s peace will allow us to see circumstances through his eyes, positioning us to then respond quite differently. The second result is that the peace of God will guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. I love that! This is one of many amazing promises in Scripture that can never be broken. We can count on the fact that if we present our requests to God with thanksgiving, that our hearts will be guarded against negative thoughts that could lead to a negative life outlook.
We need to live lives of faith that are guarded against anxious responses or negative thinking. We need calmness in a life filled with the peace of Christ. We need a perspective and outlook that diffuses negative thinking or anxious responses to challenging situations. We need a heart that is filled with thanksgiving, giving thanks to God every day for the privilege to live with purpose and intentionality. And we need hearts that are guarded in Christ Jesus, with a hedge of protection that no evil cannot penetrate.
The Paradise Bound Ministry Team has taught me not only the value of prayer but the essentiality and necessity of entering each day with fervent and passionate prayer. Join me this week in praying intently with thanksgiving, believing that the peace of Christ will lead and guide us as we face the challenges ahead