* Jacob asked me when he started this new blog if I would write an occasional piece. After months of delay, this will be my first entry.*

Thoughts on Anxiousness, Specific Requests and Intercessory Prayer
by: Les Riley
In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7

A few weeks ago I did a short study on the subject of intercessory prayer & specific requests. It is very shocking to study this and see how many BOLD and broad promises the Father makes to us in passages that deal with prayer — things like “if you ask with a mustard seed sized faith and say to this mountain be thrown into the sea, it shall be done
And, over and over again, God says things like “I SHALL” and “it will be done“.
So, we as children may come boldly before the throne of grace with our petitions, our requests, our needs, even our wants, and never have to worry that they are too small or too large or too silly to ask our heavenly Father.

However, I am learning (even today) that a key component of intercessory prayer and any prayer for specific things is that “giving us what we want” is really no where on the radar screen when God responds to our prayers. God gives us what is best for us, what we NEED but don’t have sense enough to ask.
YES, God often gives us what we ask for because He is a kind Father who loves us:
“And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be giiven you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. And of which of you that is a father shall his son ask a loaf, and he give him a stone? or a fish, and he for a fish give him a serpent? Or if he shall ask an egg, will he give him a scorpion? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?” — Luke 11:9-13
But this is not the primary answer to the heart cries of His children and should not be our primary goal in understanding or practicing prayer for specific needs, wants, and plans.

And prayer for specific things is certainly not attempting to give counsel to the “immortal, invisible ONLY WISE God” who “does all things well” and “according to the counsel of His own will“. The “judge of all the earth” will certainly “do that which is right“..
So WHY pray for for specific things? Because it is our desire and God tells us to (over and over again)

The reason God calls us to intercessory prayer and prayer for specific things is:
1) To increase our faith
2) So that we might better know, understand, and love HIM
3) So that we might learn peace and contentment which can only come through trusting God.

The third of which is why I started with the verses above.
“In nothing be anxious; but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6-7

These two verses are preceded by the admonition to “rejoice in the Lord always” and followed by another admonition to “think on” good, lovely, and godly things — and by Paul’s boast that he had “learned to be content” with little or with much (thus illustrating the key to having the ability to have peace and to rejoice in the Lord).

But since this entry is about prayer, and what prompted it was wanting to share my thinking on how to/ how not to pray for specific things in light of the laundry list of prayer needs I often have let us examine these helpful verses briefly.

Why does this call to “make our requests known unto God” (who, of course, already knows all our requests and all our motives) begin with the command to “be anxious for noting” rather than
simply saying to “ask in faith” or to “ask in the Name of Jesus” like many other NT passages about prayer?

1) Because James tells us WHY our prayers (seemingly) sometimes go unanswered.
Ye have not because you ask amiss“. This first tells us that God will not answer prayers that go specifically against His revealed will. (which is why a study of how to discern God’s will is so crucial).
But, also, that asking the wrong way/ for the wrong reasons will not give us the desired answer to our prayers.
“Be anxious for nothing, but with thanksgiving . . .” how can we make our requests known from a heart of thankfulness if we are anxious, insecure, and worried?

2) Because anxiousness is the opposite of resting in (trusting?) God.
“Take heed, brethren, lest haply there shall be in any one of you an evil heart of unbelief, in falling away from the living God, but exhort one another day by day, so long as it is called To- day; lest any one of you be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin: for we are become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our confidence firm unto the end: while it is said, To- day if ye shall hear his voice, Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation.
For who, when they heard, did provoke? nay, did not all they that came out of Egypt by Moses? And with whom was he displeased forty years? was it not with them that sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that were disobedient? And we see that they were not able to enter in because of unbelief. Let us fear therefore, lest haply, a promise being left of entering into his rest, any one of you should seem to have come short of it. . .
There remaineth therefore a sabbath rest for the people of God. For he that is entered into his rest hath himself also rested from his works, as God did from his. Let us therefore give diligence to enter into that rest, that no man fall after the same example of disobedience.” — Hebrews 3:12-4:1, 4:9-11

Notice, the COMMAND to “labor to enter into His rest” is sandwiched between warnings that not doing so is “disobedience” and rooted in “an evil heart of unbelief”. Which brings up the third reason we are told to not be “anxious” before praying.

3) Because anxiousness is the opposite of faith. Jesus — who promised us that anything we asked in His name, in faith, would be granted — prior to going to the cross gave us the perfect example of the right heart attitude in prayer. “if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but Thy will be done”

Anxiousness and worry are the opposites and the enemies of this level of trust and faith (or even a minuscule measure of it). Anxiousness causes us to instead say “not Thy will, but my will be done”. And, when God does not answer right away, in the way that we want, it feeds this faithlessness and rather than moving us towards “the peace that passes all understanding”, towards rest, and towards contentment.

4) Because anxiousness causes turns our “requests into demands
“. Beyond just being the opposite of faith, and causing us to not have peace. Anxiousness turns the life of prayer and the basis for intercessory prayer and asking for specific things on its head.

Rather than following the pattern and trusting in the promises & goodness of God, we end up completely inverting things.

God says to us of prayer “if you (us) will — then I (God) shall”
Anxiousness turns this test for us into a test for God, where we subtly say “No, if you (God) will give us what we ask for, then I (us) will trust in you.”
Unlike Job, who boasted “though He slay me, yet will I praise Him”, anxiousness causes us to say “I will ask Him not to slay me, and if He doesn’t, then will I praise Him”.

5) Because anxiousness, ultimately, leads to sin. When we get anxious, we begin down a path that will lead to worse and more gross sin that involves/ harms more and more people.

We ask God. Then He doesn’t answer as quickly as we’d like. So, we drag out our own idols and our own wordly wisdom and try them. Then, when that doesn’t we try to “force the issue” through the arm of the flesh. Then, because of the sin of anxiousness, we begin to try to get others to help us and manipulate them.

This making people/ things/ callings into idols and manipulation of them is not always conscious, we often do it without realizing it, but it is sin nonetheless. (like Aaron’s sons trying to manipulate strange fire, in hopes of gaining God’s favor their own way, this is deadly).

All of which, if we do not humble ourselves and repent, will lead us down a path to:
a) mistrust (of God and each other — both giving and getting) rather than faith ;
b) resentment (again, of God and each other) rather than contentment;
c) A root of bitterness (towards God and each other);
and, eventually,
d) either chastisement unto repentance or apostasy.
The final end of this is
e) constant struggle and a focus on everything negative rather than “the peace that passes understanding” and a “thinking on ‘whatsover is pure, lovely, of good report” etc.
And we will never be able to “rejoice” or “be content“.

This sinful, destructive pattern will come to pass when we precede “making our requests known to God” by anxiousness rather than thanksgiving EVEN IF WE ARE RIGHT/ BIBLICAL IN THE THINGS WE ARE ASKING FOR OR WE ARE SIMPLY ASKING GOD TO FULFILL A PROMISE/ CALLING/ VISION HE HAS GIVEN US.

“Ye shall have no other God’s before me”.

If God has given us a calling, a gift, a promise, the discernment to see a particular path, or even laid something/ someone on our hearts to pray for and we grasp it like an idol that we place our hope in, try to protect it from God, worry/ fret over it, instead of laying it on the alter like Abraham did Isaac (the fulfillment of one of God’s promises and the beginnings of everything God would do through Abraham) — God will not answer our prayers; He will not bless our efforts; He will not give us peace; He will chastise us, withhold, and ultimately take our idols and destroy them & us.
But, if we repent & look to Him in faith, He is pleased to restore all the things and even to vastly surpass the previous blessings, more than we could ever hope for or ask.

I hate to admit how often this vicious cycle has been true in my life (and, regrettably, not just in the distant past).

But, I “know whom I have believed in, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I’ve committed, unto Him against that day.” We can all, therefore, who admit our failure(s) & sins, and cast ourselves yet again on our blessed Redeemer and older Brother who “made one sacrifice  for all” (our sins) and who “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” where He “makes intercession for us”.

Therefore, we let us go before the Father:
a) Beginning with the confession that we have very tiny faith, but that we have great hope in the  object of our faith — great beyond measure.
b) Admitting we have mixed motives and a divided heart on not only everything we do but even in our best prayers
c) Confessing our sins — but then leaving them on the alter, not dwelling on them as if God were a liar and slack in His promises.
d) Asking Him to help our weak faith, our anxiousness, and our lack of thankfulness by working in our hearts and showing us again the greatness and completeness of the work of Christ.

Then we may, “be anxious for nothing, but in all things with thanksgiving, make our requests known to God” — that includes our laundry list that we would publically ask for others to pray for and private things that we could be anxious about and would never share with anyone.

Knowing that He will not only give us the peace and contentment that promised in Philippians 4 — but that if we say to whatever seems like an immovable impossible mountain, will be cast into the sea when we ask in faith and in the Name of Christ.

May He who is able increase our faith, our love for/ unity with each other, and our zeal for His Kingdom.