What makes His peace special isn’t that a simple prayer zaps all our problems immediately; it is that we can know the One who transcends it all, and we can call Him our sovereign and loving Father. We can trust that He often allows life’s situations to draw us to Himself and grow us more like Christ. Our emotions are not slaves to our circumstances, rather Christ set them free to enjoy heavenly peace and joy now no matter what. This is peace the world longs for, peace God longs to give, and peace that is ours in Christ.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).
Year after year, search data on major Bible websites show Philippians 4:6–7 to be one of the most popular passages in Scripture, and with good reason: it shows us God’s proven path from anxiety to peace.
Unfortunately, our desperate hearts easily get off-track seeking a remedy for our stress. We treat this precious passage as a talisman, missing the true meaning and path to peace. A recent situation of mine illustrates this.
As I thought through my stressful situation practically, my anxiety worsened. The same thing happened when I tried to fix my attention on something else—anxiety would boomerang back around in no time.
Then Philippians 4:6-7 came to mind. Prayer is the answer!
So I knelt down to pray.
My prayer started out fine, but soon I felt like I was trapped in a hot car, breathing the same air over and over again. Each line of my prayer gasped for breath and brought a deeper longing for fresh air. Prayer made my anxiety worse.
What happened? Was God’s promise in Philippians 4:6–7 a sham?
As I reflected on this troubling episode, I realized that God’s promise wasn’t a sham but rather I had it all wrong.
A pity party will not lead you to peace.
My anxiety-driven prayer didn’t make things better. That’s because God doesn’t promise any type of prayer to be the silver-bullet anxiety stopper. He prescribes supplication with thanksgiving (Philippians 4:6). A heart lacking gratitude will not encounter the peace of God.
I soon realized my lack. My lame attempts to thank God were not from the heart but were always preceded with a “but,” as if to say, “God, I thank you for this, but you owe me.” Sidestepping true thanksgiving leads to a cocktail of other sins, including self-centered grumbling, cynicism, coveting the situations of others, entitlement, and ultimately unbelief. These are all the opposite of thankfulness.
My self-centered pity party lamented my situation always instead of rejoicing in the Lord always (Philippians 4:4). We are to pray with thanksgiving “in everything” (Philippians 4:6).