Hopefully, you’ve read the first two posts about Peace, from yesterday and the day before. If you haven’t, I encourage you to go back so that you can put today’s devotional in context.
Peace is something that God wants you to have, and the presence of Jesus in our lives is supposed to bring Peace. The truth, however, is often a paradox: a follower of Jesus who is filled with anxiety, not peace. Those things – anxiety and following Jesus – aren’t supposed to go together. But they often do.
Yesterday, we took a big step towards a life of peace by learning to ‘strain ahead’ and shifting our focus towards what we can actually do.
Today I want to help you see the powerful role the prayer plays in your peace quotient.
You probably expect a pastor to champion prayer. But my view of prayer may be somewhat different.
On the one hand, I do think that prayer moves God in some way. In the Bible, we have many examples of God making decisions or plan-adjustments based on the prayers of people like Moses and Abraham and Elijah. Later, in the early church, people like Peter and Paul also show us that God often moves in tandem with our prayer. David once wrote, “Be delighted with God, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4) and James said, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (James 5:16)
I believe that prayer often moves the heart of God. But here’s the thing – and I’m being completely honest here – exactly how prayer changes God remains a mystery. When I pray about those orphans wandering around Syria, am I making God more aware of their plight? When we pray about a hurricane’s devastation, are we informing God about something he doesn’t already know? When I pray about a marriage that is in trouble, does God say, “Well…I wasn’t really going to help. But since you asked, I guess I will now.”
Sometimes, God moves in tandem with my request. Other times, my prayer seems to make no difference. I don’t know if there is a formula to getting God to do what you want, but I haven’t discovered it.
But here’s the thing: I think prayer sometimes changes God’s heart. But I KNOW that prayer always changes mine.
You want Peace? Listen to these words from Paul:
The Lord is near. 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. (Phil 4:5-7, NIV)
When I pray, I’m petitioning God. I’m asking Him to move and act. I’m also confessing my anxiety and my worry and my fear. As I pray about the things that make me anxious, a funny thing happens: I feel the anxiety lessen and peace fill the void. Often, I cannot explain it. Which is why Paul says that, as I pray, ‘the peace of God, which transcends all understanding’ comes. It is a peace that makes no sense, but which is profound and permeating.
Prayer really does bring peace, as I ask God to hear my requests and as I release my burdens to him at the same time.
I don’t know what, exactly, it does to Him…but I know what it does to me.
Today, write down the things that are bringing anxiety to you. Spend some real time – dedicated time – uninterrupted time (turn off your phone!) and present those things that are robbing you of peace to God. Then see what happens, because God will send peace to fill your heart as the anxiety is released into His hands.
You may find this peace to be temporary. That’s why it’s so important to pray as often as you feel anxious. (See Phil 4 above). Talking to God multiple times a day is an important part of having a pervasive spirit of peace in your soul.