(Note: A downloadable PDF copy of this lesson is available on the last page.)
Why do you feel good after praying sometimes, and other times you are anxious?
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be mode known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7, NKJV
I was asked to speak to a group gathered for “a day of prayer.” This was a good assignment because like most speakers, I usually learned more in preparation for the presentation than the audience did in listening to the message. I spent three days thumbing through my Bible, reflecting and meditating on the subject of prayer.
Looking back, I did a lot of praying while Eva was struggling with cancer and also when my second wife, Marcey, died suddenly. I did a lot of praying before Jo and I married. There have been other crises in my life when I pleaded with God to help me solve a problem. But upon reflection, I have found that it is very easy to drift away from watching God work.
A day of prayer, or, more precisely, an annual day of prayer, served me well. It gave me a chance to pause, to let the world go by for a day, and to contemplate the privilege of talking things over with the Creator of the universe.
The verse at the head of this chapter promises the peace that passes understanding will guard our hearts and minds as a by-product of prayer: a peace that is a quiet, still, calm, serene state of heart and mind. Everyone seeks this, but not everyone wants to meet the conditions. Prayer and supplication imply the acceptance of the truth that you must submissively and earnestly relinquish control over the events of your life to Someone else.
This proposition is a bit much for “modern” self-sufficient people who may have achieved an education, a position, wealth, power, or authority, without giving God a thought. Why should they turn control of their lives over to anyone, even God?
THE NEED FOR PRAYER
The answer is that sooner or later, a peaceful heart and mind will elude you. Personal attainment, competence, and intelligence are heady stuff, but not the keys to finding the peace of God. Truly self-sufficient people find this hard to believe.
I remember sitting across the desk from a businessman who had all the benefits of success: a large, beautifully decorated home located on spacious, well-tended grounds, a summer home, a farm, the finest food, clothing, cars, and the privilege of frequent travel to other countries. He achieved it on his own, yet now he was telling me how and why he needed the Lord.
He and his wife had been invited to attend an executive seminar a year earlier by several men whom he respected. On the way to the seminar, they rode in silence the whole three hours, nursing mutual hostility toward each other, in luxurious, air-conditioned comfort. They were utterly miserable; this was the third straight day they had not spoken to each other.
They sat in the audience and listened to other businessmen and their wives give their testimonies-that they had achieved everything on their own but peace and contentment. Only when they turned control of their lives over to God were they able to experience the peace that passes understanding.
Separately at the conference, both he and his wife prayed and turned control of their lives over to the Lord. This simple step added the missing link for them: access to the peace of God that passes understanding.
A statement once caught my attention. I wrote it down but failed to record the source: “It would seem that a good head, excellent vision, a strong heart, a strong body, an inexhaustible purse—you’d have it made.”
Not so when it comes to finding peace of heart and mind. St. Augustine once said to God: “You made us for Yourself, and our heart is restless until it finds rest in You.”
Even Jesus, God’s own Son, needed to turn His life over to God. When He was about to be crucified, He made a request to God:
“Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
Luke 22:42, NKJV
The answer was “no.” Finishing the task was necessary. It seems that everyone takes his turn in enduring something he would rather not face.