* Dr. Rosscup teaches prayer and Bible exposition classes at The Master’s Seminary. Logos Bible Software is currently releasing his lifework on the topic of prayer. Today’s post is adapted from part of that larger work.
Philippians 4:6-7 — “Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
These often quoted words meet us in a context that blends key concepts of the letter. Our eyes can leap to meet the ideas of standing firm (v. 1), and living in unity (v. 2) for the gospel (v. 3). And we can live in joy (v. 4), thanking God (v. 6), focused on true values (v. 8 ), and content with sufficiency in Christ (10-13).
Eleven words capture the related points. At the heart is saturation in prayer.
Constancy (v. 1). Urgency rings in Paul’s call to stand firm in the Lord. Prayer in v. 6 can be a vital part of drawing on strength Christ gives (v. 13) and His supply to meet all needs (cf v. 19). Peace God bestows is a fitting result (v. 7). Joining constancy is concert (v. 2), keeping in heart-sync with fellow believers. This is in cooperation (v. 3). Christians’ teamwork can give impetus to the gospel. In this case two women need to dissolve a rift in a bond that rises above petty things for the bigness of Christ’s cause.
Cheer (v. 4) “in the Lord” is vital. It is an optimism and shine that springs from faith that the values, promises, and resources in Christ are adequate. To be in “the book of life” is to have a destiny so bright that no circumstance should dim it. Not only such life but the Lord’s near presence at any time gives joy, as does the open door to God in prayer. All is well, and congeniality (v. 5a) can be the tone in “a forbearing spirit” which is a sweèt reasonableness to live in good will.
Closeness (v. 5b) of the Lord in being “at hand” may refer to His soon coming to solve all problems. But it seems better to see this as a focus on His very nearness in being right here, very near with coping uplift. In either view Christ is adequate. In the second meaning He is present go supply all that this outline is emphasizing, as He is near in other Scripture (Ps. 34:18; 73:23; 119:151, etc.). In either view speaking in prayer in the same breath (Phil. 4:6) is natural. Not only is Christ to come, but we may come to Him now, or He is very present and ready to open His door to a prayer knock (cf. v. 19; Matt. 7:7-11; Acts 2:25).
With such uplift we can be coming to God often (v. 6), “in everything,” seasoning life “with thanks.” This is apt due to past answers, present blessings, and future expectations. Such a boon gives composure (v. 7), peace that is the calm of a Christ-given poise. This “passes all understanding” for it goes beyond every expectation based on any mere natural, human spin on how things can work out. It jettisons a limiting spirit about the possibilities God has in taking care of people and situations.
This life is to be with contemplation (v. 8 ) that thinks in values and attitudes God’s Word reveals. It is with a conduct (v. 9) in the Lord’s will that Paul and we have received. Such is a carriage of contentment (vv. 10-13). Be circumstances what they will, Paul can react and we can cope in the contentment of “I am able to do all things through means of Christ, who keeps on strengthening me” (v. 13).