Transcend Anxiety with Prayer (8 June 2008)

The Message

By: Dr. Robert A Schuller

Special Guest

Willie Aames

Special Music

Joyful, Joyful
Jesus is All the World/The Lord’s My Shepherd
My Hope is Built on Nothing Less/Trusting Jesus

Solo/ Anthem
Vanguard Univ. Concert Choir - The Word Was God
Ronnie Freeman – The Other Side

The Message

I am reading on page 1236, Philippians 4 beginning with the sixth verse and here’s what it says: “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.” What a charge for us; “Do not be anxious about anything!” That is a very difficult thing for the human being to do. Some of you may agree with that statement and some of you may not. I think most everyone will agree with it because the average person focuses their anxiety in the following way: Forty percent of our thoughts and our feelings are things that will never happen. Thirty percent are things about the past that cannot be changed. Twelve percent are things about criticism by others, which is mostly untrue. Ten percent is about health, which gets worse with stress and anxiety and only eight percent are about real problems that we really face. So by all means more than ninety-two percent of our anxiety is unwarranted anxiety and yet it’s one of the things that the human being tends to do. 

A man who is recognized as the greatest prayer of all time was a man by the name of George Muller. He said this, he said, “The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” And he knew what he was talking about. He was born in 1805. He was born to oppression father and mother. His mother died when he was but three years old. His father collected the revenue for the state so he was basically a tax collector. It was a well paid position at that time in society. And his father would give him an allowance, a very handsome allowance of which he would spend in debauchery and in as he would call it sinful living. And so he did. And when he ran out of money all he would do is go and when his father wasn’t looking he’d put his hands in the till and take the more money he needed.

Well eventually that caught up with him and he spent time in prison by the time he was 16. And his father thought that this would be a good way to teach his son some morals would be to send him to seminary. So he actually sent his son to seminary with the thought that he might have a better life. 

Well seminary didn’t do anything for him. He continued his same lifestyle there and when his allowance would run out and he needed more money he would simply steal and continue his life of theft. Well he did that until one day he walked into a church meeting mid-week where he went and he saw people praying for the first time. And he saw them kneeling and praying. He said up till then prayer was really something that you just read out of a book and he knelt and he prayed. And as he prayed he realized that God was going to make a difference in his life and he changed his life and his life seriously changed. 

And not long after that he moved to England where he founded in Bristol an orphanage that accommodated over two thousand orphans. And all of the buildings they said there were made of solid granite. And here’s one of the unique things. He never once asked for a penny to help support this orphanage. It was completely self-supporting and the way it was supported through his own testimony was on bended knee and through prayer. 

God works and God answers prayer and as George Muller testified and exemplified at the beginning of anxiety is the end of faith and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety. And those are those words that we receive from St. Paul today. “Do not be anxious about anything but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving make your requests to God.” And so the end of anxiety is found, it begins, with prayer. 

And that’s why this morning we’re going to conclude this service with a time of prayer. I’ve asked many of you to go and collect different prayer requests from your neighbors and your friends and your associates and your family members. And I’m confident that many of you have many prayer requests and today we’re going to pray for them. Because I believe in the power of prayer, this church believes in the power of prayer. We have developed a prayer community online that is available twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week and you can go online and you can pray for people and you can request prayer. We have it happen all the time. I personally pray for people who ask me to pray for them. And I get different prayer requests from different times.
I had a prayer that said this recently. It says, “I’m a young pastor in Africa and I need a prayer for my church for God’s favor and directions. I have about fifty to sixty congregation that God should bless the church and its members and connect the church to the international. The name of the church is I Am Chapel in Ghana West Africa.” And people from around the world come and they pray together. It’s one big community of prayer of thousands of people literally from every country and continent on planet earth coming together for prayer. And if you need prayer today you can go online and you can request prayer. I believe in the power of prayer. And I’m convinced that when you embrace prayer into your life that anxiety as you know it will be changed.

How many people have ever heard of Josh McDowell? He is known in Christian circles as an apologetic. An apologetic is someone who looks at the scriptures and explains how the scriptures all enhance and embrace and support one another. And he is a theologian and a teacher. Well he wasn’t raised in a Christian home and he wasn’t raised in a Christian manner. He became a Christian as a young man. As he studied the bible he saw these contradictions and someone else came along and showed him how the contradictions weren’t contradictions but actually complementary of each other. And that changed his life. That opened his eyes to the reality of who Christ is.

And it wasn’t long after that that his mother passed away. And his heart was broken for her because he had no idea what her spiritual life was like. He never had a chance to talk to her about it. And he started praying. His prayer was that God would show him, would reveal to him the life that his mother had, any spiritual life that she had. And as he was praying he decided he was going to walk to the end of the pier. He was living here in Southern California. And he walked to the end of this pier and at the end of the pier he saw this woman sitting in a lawn chair fishing. And he just struck up a conversation with her and she asked him so where are you from? You know most Californians have a second home. Well he had actually migrated to California from Michigan and so he says well you know I was raised in a little town in Michigan but you’ve never heard of it, it’s called Union City and before he could say the words because he would always say near Battle Creek, because some people know where Battle Creek is, she said oh, it’s near Battle Creek. He goes, really? You knew that? How did you know that? She goes oh well have you ever heard of a McDowell family? He goes yes, that’s my name. My name is Josh McDowell. And she says well my cousin lived there. She was a McDowell and her name was and she mentioned his mother’s name. He didn’t even know she existed. And so he said, do you know what? I’ve been praying that God would share with me and somehow reveal to me something about my mother’s spiritual life. Can you tell me anything about my mother’s spiritual life? And she says well I didn’t see her for years, but I can tell you this much: we were teenagers and a traveling evangelist came and they had a tent and we went to this revival that they had there and the two of us went forward in this revival and we accepted Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and savior. And that was the answer that Josh needed for his prayers.

And God came and connected him with the impossible odds. And people will call it a coincidence and people who don’t believe in the power of God and don’t believe in prayer will just call it coincidence. But I call it a God incident. Where God comes in and He answers prayer and He makes a difference in our lives; because that’s how anxiety is relieved from our minds and our hearts and that’s how we acquire the peace of God that He has for every single one of us through prayer, through petition and through thanksgiving.

What is petition? Petition is a form of prayer where we come to God and we request, we ask Him for certain things to fulfill the needs that we have in our heart, the needs that we have for our physical needs, the things that most people refer to when they think of prayer. The challenge that most people have is they don’t know how to pray and I’ve had many people ask me how do you pray? And that’s a very common question. In fact it was a question that Christ’s apostles asked Christ Himself and Christ Himself has taught us to pray. His Apostles came to Him and said, “Lord teaches us to pray.” And Jesus said, “Our Father who art in heaven hollowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil for thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever,” Amen.

Those are our instructions on how to pray and if you go and you look at this prayer that Christ gave us we can find out very clearly that there are four points that you can embrace to help guide you through a life of prayer that will be productive and successful. Instead of immediately jumping into petition where we constantly ask God for things which is the human inclination because when we are hurt, when we are in the fox whole all you can think about is Lord save me and out it comes. But that’s not the way Christ taught us to pray. He taught us to first of all recognize who God is. He said it, “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.” We use our own words. Recognize what God has done for you in the past. Recognize the splendor and the glory and the power that He has. Only then and only then do you then take the next step of recognizing and petitioning God and encouraging him to make a difference in our lives. And so I want to encourage you to use the Lord’s Prayer as a stepping stone and as a tool to pray.
Children haven’t always learned that and as a result of that we get some very interesting prayers. Debbie, a seven year old said this she said, “Dear God, please send a new baby for mommy. The new baby you sent last week cries too much.” And then an eight year old named, Norma, she said, “Dear God, how many angels are there in heaven? I want to be the first kid in class to know the answer.” And another one said, “This is my prayer: could you please give my brother some brains? So far he doesn’t have any.” And Hank, a seven-year-old said, “Thank you for the nice day today. You even fooled the TV weatherman.” You know children’s prayers are beautiful prayers because they come from the heart. And as we learn to pray from the heart with recognition of who God is and then petitioning God and submitting to His authority and giving thanks for all things, which is really what the Lord’s Prayer does. It gives us these four pillars with which to establish our prayer lives. We will begin to realize the magnitude of how God continues to step into our lives and perform miracles, God instances. “Don’t be anxious for anything but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, with thanksgiving.”

I received a prayer request online recently of a woman who has absolutely no reason to be thankful. But she concludes her statements by saying thanks. She says, “Dr. Schuller I’ve been requesting prayer for several months now and I wanted to update you on my health. This will probably be my last update. I just got out of the hospital and I’m receiving hospice care here at home. I have psoriasis of the liver caused by Nash disease. I know that I’m going to heaven with my heavenly Lord, and I’m not afraid, but I am very afraid of the turning and the transition from earth to heaven and I’m also struggling with the fact that I’m only forty-nine years old, but please continue to pray for me. Pray for that transition. Thank you for your prayers and thank you Lord for the forty-nine years I’ve had.

So when you think of God, what do you think of? And those are the thoughts that come out of your mind to begin your prayer. Oh Lord, You created everything. Oh God, You gave me my family. Oh God, You helped me through all of these things in my life. Oh God, You continue to perform miracles on a daily basis for people everywhere. Oh God, nothing is impossible with You. And you continue on this litany as long as you need, or as long as you want, talking about the power of God and who He is. Who He is to you, your heavenly Father. And that’s the way we begin our prayers. “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” That’s topic number two. And what we do at that point is we recognize that His sovereignty in our lives is more important than who we are and our wants and our wishes and our desires and our hopes. That God knows better than us, our needs and what’s really good for us than we know for ourselves. So in here we are saying Lord, I have all these wants and desires but You know what I really need. Lord, let Your will be done and we submit ourselves in this section, to His authority. We allow His authority to take place in our lives.

Then we come to the third section where we start to petition God. “Give us this day our daily bread, forgive us our sins as we forgive the sins of others. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” And these are all petitions. We are asking God for what we think we need in our lives, and at the same time, we’re recognizing the fact that it covers the whole spectrum. For the physical and the financial, the material and the inanimate, it includes the tangible and the intangible, it includes every single area of our life. That’s all included in those wonderful words. So we petition Him.

And finally we give thanks to God for everything. “For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever.” We thank Him and in every way we thank God for everything He’s ever done, everything He’s doing, and everything He will do through us and for us. It’s petition. In all things, in all situations we pray and we petition in thanksgiving. And as we learn to be thankful, we learn that a thankful heart is a positive heart. We learn that a thankful mind is a positive mind and a thankful positive mind is a mind that has the ability to do far more for the Kingdom of God and God can use a positive and a healthy mind and body and soul in a powerful way to make a powerful difference in our world today. 

One young man who realized that was a name of Michael. He worked on communications towers and his coworker noticed that he was always positive. He would ask him, how are you today? And his response was if I was any better I’d be twins. Can anyone explain what that means? I’ve heard that a dozen times; I’ve never been able to figure that out. It makes absolutely no sense to me whatsoever, but that’s what he said. And he was always positive and he was always giving a positive twist on everything that took place in the company. And as tragedy sometimes happens he tragically fell from one of the communications towers and was seriously injured. They didn’t know if he would live or die. And the paramedics came and they saw him and as they started addressing him they asked him a question: are you allergic to anything? And he could see the terror in their face because he was afraid they thought he was dying. And he didn’t want them to think that he was dying. He wanted them to know that he was going to live and that he was going to survive. So this thought immediately ran through his head as a positive thinker he said yes I am. And they stopped everything they said, what? I’m allergic to gravity. And they all laughed and they calmed down and peace came over their hearts and they addressed his issues and they took him to the emergency room and he survived. 

A positive heart, a positive mind will always outlive, will out last, will have the ability to deal with stress and anxiety in such a way that life becomes a life of thanksgiving to God for all things. And so “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer, petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God and the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your heats and your minds in Christ Jesus.” And so this morning we’re going to practice. We’re going to practice the instructions to release our anxieties to God, to allow the peace of God to flow into our hearts and our minds.

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