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©Douglas Beyer 2000

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growing in my PRAYER
Philippians 4:6

Some unknown writer has chronicled the following prayer life.

At five years of age.
Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.

At ten years of age.
Our Father who art in heaven hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done. And, please God, help me lick Jim Martin, and don't let Eloise like him better than she does me, and don't forget to send me a toy airplane.

At fifteen years of age.
Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive them who trespass against us. And God bless father and mother and Eloise. And please let me be chosen for the basketball team.

At twenty years of age.
Dear God, make me a good sport at college, and don't let me ever do a mean thing, even to Jim Martin, and help me to keep decent in every way, so that I will be good enough for Eloise when I get through. And take care of Mom and Dad.

At twenty-five years of age.
(Not praying)

At thirty years of age.
O, my God, help me to carry on when we go over the top tomorrow morning. Don't let me be afraid to die if my number comes up. But, O God, let me live to see Eloise and little Mary again. O, my God, when will this awful war be over? If I have to go, take care of Eloise and comfort her.

At thirty-five years of age.
Dear Father, help me to make a success of this new undertaking. Let me make good for the sake of Eloise and the children, but don't let me become so besotted with success that I will grow cruel and mean and grasping.

At forty years of age.
O God, spare my little son. Spare my little son. Spare his life. O, God, my little son! Nevertheless, Thy will be done.

At forty-five years of age.
O, God, take care of our children away from home and guard them from temptation. Let Jack grow up to be splendid man and a comfort to his mother in the loss of Ned.

At fifty years of age.
Father, show me the right thing to do for Jim Martin. Shall I help him go out West or start him up in business again here? Give me thy guidance.

At fifty-five years of age.
Our Father, help Mary bear the trial that has come upon her. Help her not to become bitter or hard because of it, but to grow finer and more understanding. If it is thy will let her love win her husband back, but if not, give her the strength to give him up, but don't let it warp her, dear Father, or make her petty.

At sixty years of age.
Comfort the children for the loss of their dear mother. Comfort all those who mourn, and make them believe in thee and thy world of light and happiness beyond, where Eloise is gone.

At sixty-five years of age.
O God, I ought not to complain, but the loss of my dear one is too heavy upon me. Give me courage to go on alone. God help me to teach these grandchildren of mine, before I die, not to expect too much or too little of their fellowman.

At three-score and ten years of age.
O God, I thank thee that my time is come and I am going to join Eloise. Don't let them mourn for me. They wouldn't if they knew how lonely it has been without her. Just putting in time. Comfort them, Father, and use the love they have for me to loose their hold on the things that do not matter. God bless them and keep them. Amen.

Are you growing in your prayers? Can you see progress? Paul writes to the Philippians, "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known unto God" (Philippians 4:6). Three things important things this teaches us: be fearful for nothing, prayerful for everything, and thankful for anything.

Fearful For Nothing

"Do not be afraid…"Jesus' remedy for fear is found in Luke 12:4-7. "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot afterward do anything worse. I will show you whom to fear: fear God, who after killing, has the authority to throw into hell. Believe me, he is the one you must fear!

"Aren't five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one sparrow is forgotten by God. Even the hairs of your head have all been counted. So do not be afraid; you are worth much more than many sparrows."

At first glance Jesus seems to be contradicting himself: "Fear God (and)… do not be afraid." Actually it is the most profound prescription ever given against the epidemic of fear. Nothing else seems to work. Trying to stop worrying is like trying to go to sleep. The more you work at it the more impossible it becomes. Relief is not found in pretending that what frightens you is not real, but in acknowledging God who is greater than your fears. Fear him and you will have nothing else to fear. David says, "I will fear no evil, (not because the evil isn't real and dangerous, but because…) thou art with me" (Psalm 23).

You need Exodus 20:20 vision: "Do not fear; for God has come to prove you, and that the fear of him may be before your eyes" (Ex. 20:20 RSV). Paradoxical as it appears, a God-fearing man or woman is freed from the fears that afflict others. The second verse of John Newton's great hymn, "Amazing Grace," says it well: "'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, and grace my fears relieved."

Fear can be a good thing when it leads you to strong confidence in God instead of yourself. But the problem is your god may be too small. You may worship a god too feeble to protect you. You are like deep sea divers encased in suits designed for many fathoms deep marching bravely to pull plugs out of bath tubs.

Meet your fears with faith and love. "God is love" (1 John 4:16). And "perfect love casts out fear" (1 John 4). Of course, so does alcohol, stupidity and rage, but God's love does it better. The same channels through which the polluted waters of fear flow can also carry the healing waters of faith and love. What a difference it will make when you realize that nothing can happen to you that is too big or too bad for you and God to handle together.

The Bible contains examples of God's "chickens" who overcame their fears. Abraham, the mighty man of faith, chickened out in Egypt. He told Pharaoh Sarah was his sister so he wouldn't kill him to marry her. Moses chickened out at the burning bush. He said, "Here am I Lord, send Aaron. I can't even make a public speech." Saul hid at his inauguration. And David saw Bathsheba skinny dipping and thought "I want to meditate with her." He chickened out, killed Uriah, her husband, and became the worst father in biblical history. All these were first class chickens, but they became great lions of faith when they learned to fear God instead of circumstances.

Prayerful For Everything

You are fearful of nothing when you are prayerful for everything. "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication. Let your requests be known unto God." You fear much when you pray little. Nearly every pastor has heard the story of the deacons who visited their pastor in the hospital. They said, "Pastor, you will be happy to know that at the last Deacon's meeting we voted to pray for your recovery. It carried, 8 to 5!"

A woman asked another pastor to pray for her gall bladder in his pulpit prayer. He said, "It's not my habit to be so specific in public prayer."

"Oh, but you are!" the woman exclaimed. "Just last week you prayed for all the loose livers."

Nothing is too trivial to be brought in prayer to the throne of God. Whatever is the subject of your thoughts must be the subject of your prayers — whether in penitence or in petition. Those who are not accustomed to addressing God over small matters will have no habit to help them when great trials come. Too many people pray for emergency supplies when they should be praying for daily rations.

Praying about trivial things is no sign of trivial faith. People of little or no faith can pray about great things: world peace or global catastrophes. Saints pray for their "daily bread." Your reluctance to pray for small matter is due more, I suspect, to a sense of your own dignity rather than God's.

Being prayerful for everything doesn't mean God will give you everything. Remember the little girl who prayed, "Lord, please make Boston the capital of Vermont, because that's what I wrote on my examination." You find it hard to get what you want from God because you don't want the best. God finds it hard to give because he would give you the best, but you won't take it.

If you had been living when Christ was on earth
       And had met the Savior kind,
  What would you have asked him to do for you,
       Supposing you were stone blind?
  A child considered and then replied,
       I expect that, without a doubt,
  I'd ask for a dog, with collar and chain,
       To lead me daily about.
  And how often thus, in faithless prayer,
       (We acknowledge with shamed surprise).
  We have only asked for a dog and chain,
       When we might have had — opened eyes. (author unknown)

God finds it hard to give because we want less than the best.

"In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be known unto God."

Thankful For Anything

"What have to be thankful for?" one man complained. "I can't even pay my bills."

"Just be thankful," his friend replied, "that you are not one of your creditors."

"With thanksgiving, let your requests be known unto God." Your thanks should be as fervent for mercies received as your petitions for mercies sought.

Thanklessness starts early. Many children write letters of request to Santa Claus before Christmas. Few write him letters of thanks after Christmas. It's the old story repeated in many forms of ten lepers who begged and received healing from Jesus. Only one (a Samaritan) returned to give thanks.

A thankful heart doubles your blessings, causing you to enjoy them twice: once when you receive them and again when you remember them.

Count your blessing instead of your bruises. Think how much happier you would be if you could forget your troubles as easily as you forget your blessings. Don't wait until your cup is empty to be thankful for the time when it was full. Remember the guy who grumbled because he had to get up in the morning until the morning when he couldn't get up.

Paul told the Thessalonians, "In everything give thanks" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). The famous Biblical expositor, Matthew Henry, had the misfortune to be robbed by thieves. Afterward, he found four things for which he was thankful. That day he wrote these words in his diary: "Let me be thankful, first, because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse, they did not take my life; third, because, although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth, because it was I who was robbed, not I who robbed."

Grow in your prayers to where you are fearful for nothing, prayerful for everything and thankful for anything. If you do, your benediction is found in the next scripture verse: "And the peace of God which passes all understanding, will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:7).

 

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