“That which will keep a ministry on target is a faithful commitment to the Word of God.” ~ Charles R. Swindoll
The goal of this lesson is to help us see prayer as a way to lighten our burdens, not add to them; to relieve anxiety, not to increase it.
What Everyone Wants but Few of Us Have (Philippians 4:1–9)
Stability...harmony...joy...patience...pure thoughts...consistency. What spiritually minded person wouldn’t want such things? Yet because we don’t achieve these in our lives, we become anxious. Add to our imperfect walk with God the unforeseen tragedies, temptations, and pressures that assault us, and our worry needle goes off the scale. The answer is, of course, to pray—to exchange our anxiety with the inexhaustible peace that comes from time spent with the Lord. No complicated formula. No rigid schedule. Just talk to God. It sounds so simple. But we have the tendency to take the simple things of God and complicate them with religious formulas and ritualistic drudgery.
What Jesus Taught to Set Things Right (Matthew 6:5–15)
By the time Jesus stepped on the scene, prayer had degenerated in at least four ways:
- It had become formal and ritualistic
- It had become long and verbose
- It had become repetitious
- It had become prideful
Into this pharisaic system of dos and don’ts came Jesus with His own instructions on prayer. He irritated the self-impressed religious leaders of His time by offering freedom instead of legalism and teaching that prayer was made for God’s ears, not man’s applause. Jesus taught that we must pray to be heard by God, not to be admired by people. We must pray from our hearts, not with meaningless repetition. And we must forgive others before approaching God. If we follow these simple instructions, we will draw closer to God and to others.
As we share with God every worry that weighs us down, our circumstances may not change but we will. We begin to let Him carry the heavy loads that we can’t bear. We start to trust Him to handle the problems that we can’t control. And our anxiety lessens as we learn to wait on His timing and His provision.