“Pray, Petition and Request”
Philippians 4:4-7 (4:6) –November 20, 2022
Sharing together. We share many things together. We share conversations, we share meals, we share good times together. We share sadness, we share worry, we share bad times together. We also share prayer praises and prayer requests together.
I’m reminded of the time each Sunday we set aside in the services here at St. Luke’s Church, specifically for prayer concerns. We ask for concerns as well as praises. We lift up the joys that happen in our lives as well as the sad times. This time is a time of drawing closer together, of affirmation, and of caring and concern for one other as a community.
We can see this kind of care and concern here in our Scripture passage for today. The believers in the city of Philippi had real love and concern in their hearts for the Apostle Paul. We see Paul had a deep and warm love for this group of believers in Jesus Christ.
Paul was not the kind of guy who stayed in one place for very long. He was an itinerant minister, almost a circuit-riding teacher, preacher and evangelist. But, traveling around as Paul did, things came up. From Paul’s own account, a lot of things happened to him, and many of them were very unpleasant, including beatings, stonings, shipwrecks, and other kinds of dangers. If anyone here is interested, a first-person account of some of Paul’s life and journeys as an itinerant preacher can be found in 2 Corinthians 11.
John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens in between the things you plan.” I’m sure the Apostle Paul could relate. Somehow, the Philippian believers found out about the difficulties Paul was having. Without any letter requesting money, without any beneficence inquiry, without anyone from the apostolic development office asking for a donation, the Philippians decided on their own to take up a collection and send it to Paul.
They weren’t close by, so they sent a member of their community to hand-deliver their love-gift to Paul, their pastor, Epaphroditus. There was a complication. Paul was in prison. Not just in some sleepy little backwater of a town. No, Paul was in jail in the capitol city. Serious jail, guarded by career army personnel. The Philippians needed to send their gift all the way to Rome.
As Dr. McGee said in his commentary, the Philippian church was the group who came to Paul’s need when he was in prison. They sent him badly needed support! Paul was their former pastor, and their missionary, too. 
One of the reasons that Paul wrote this letter in response to the Philippian believers was to send a thank-you letter. Sandwiched in among the suggestions and commands Paul gives his friends, long-distance from Rome, is this command—“don’t worry!” What a thing for Paul to say! Of all people, he had good reason to be anxious and concerned about his own situation!
He is waiting in prison—remember, in serious jail—looking at the capital charge of treason and blasphemy for denying that “Caesar is Lord.” At this point, it was quite possible that Paul was going to die, probably from beheading. From our point of view, today, just thinking about all that Paul was dealing with, how could he say “don’t worry!”??
Worry can be insidious. Gnawing away at our insides. Like acid, eating us up. (And sometimes that is exactly the case, as in stomach ulcers!) You and I have lots we can potentially worry about: the economy, the government, fighting and violence near and far, our health and our loved ones’ health, our homes, our families, even worry about our pets.
Now that we know a little more about what Paul was facing, let’s listen again to several verses from chapter 4: “6Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Wow! Paul—in prison, mind you!—tells the Philippians “don’t worry!” But instead—pray! Pray, and let your requests be made known to God! Paul says that prayer is the antidote for the problem of worry!
I am especially intrigued about what Paul says after “Pray!” He says that God’s peace will replace worry. This peace of mind from God, from above, will guard your heart and mind. The Greek word “guard” means “will stand watch over your heart and mind.” In other words, the peace of God will come and occupy the place anxiety once held! Like a nightwatchman, or a soldier keeping watch. God’s peace helping keep us peaceful!
How many of us know people who worry? How many of us are related to people who worry? . . . How many of us are people who worry? Such a difficult habit to dislodge when worry is so deeply ingrained. Worry and anxiety can become a terrible, negative, corrosive habit. As I said, eating us up, from the inside out. Here, the Apostle Paul gives us the antidote for worry. Prayer! And, we need something to put in the place of worry and anxiety.
Let us list Paul’s Pointers on Worry. We’ll recap! One, Don’t Worry! Two, Pray! Three, God’s Peace will stand guard over your heart and mind! And now, Four: God is going to help us develop a new mental program, a new way of thinking that will build us up, instead of tearing us down. This new way of thinking will be nurturing and helpful, instead of negative and corrosive.
Verse 8 tells us, “whatever is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about these things!” God doesn’t want us to be worried and anxious. That is not living life abundantly. God dearly wants us to have positive, helpful, nurturing things on our minds and hearts. To be helpful and loving, inside and out. What a command from Paul!
Don’t worry?? Yes!! And God will help us with this new way of thinking, anytime we want to start! We can leave worry and anxiety behind, and God’s peace will help us guard our minds and hearts. Then, we are freed from worry to live life God’s way. The positive way. Thinking and acting in nurturing, loving, praiseworthy ways. Lord, let it be so. Alleluia, amen!
 McGee, J. Vernon, Through the Bible, Vol. V (Thomas Nelson Publishers: United States of America, 1983), 286.