Philippians 4:6-7 The Meaning of Prayer


These two verses are an exceptionally fine statement of the Christian doctrine of prayer. What is prayer? Prayer is talking with God, and the place to begin in any definition of prayer is with the fact that prayer is for believers only. Paul did not write his words about prayer to the pagan world at Philippi or to the world at large. He wrote them “to the saints in Christ Jesus” at Philippi. This means that prayer is exclusively for Christians. It is the means by which an empty soul that has been touched by Jesus Christ can be thrust beneath the life-giving fountain of God’s grace, can bask in God’s goodness, and can be supernaturally refreshed for life’s tasks. Prayer is the Christian’s antidote for anxiety.

I know something called prayer is offered a billion times daily by millions of people who are not Christians, but this is not prayer in any real sense. Scores of non-Christian people in the East spend the better part of a day spinning prayer wheels. Savages chant prayers in many jungle clearings. New Agers finger prayer beads. Many poor souls cry out a prayer in the midst of some calamity. Many non-Christians give themselves to a life of meditation. But this is not true prayer, if the person involved is not a Christian. Prayer is talking to God, and the only prayer that God hears and answers is one that is made through His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, who alone provides access to His presence.

This truth was taught by Jesus. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6). Jesus did not say that He was one of several ways to come to God, that He was a prophet who pointed out the ways to God; He said that He was the way to come to God, and He added, lest anyone misunderstand Him, “No one comes to the Father except through Me.” This means that no prayer offered to God apart from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ has ever reached God his heavenly Father. There are more passages in the Bible that tell when God will not answer prayer than there are passages in which He promises to do it, and God definitely says He will not answer the prayer  of anyone who does not come through faith in His Son.

Have you ever tried to pray and found God distant and unreal? Have you gone away without any real hope that God has heard you? It may be that you have never done the first thing God requires. Your sin divides you like a wall from God’s presence. It will only be removed by Jesus Christ. You need to come to Him. You need to say, “Lord Jesus Christ, I recognize that I am separated from you by my sin; but I believe you died for me to remove that sin forever. Remove it now, and accept me as your child. Amen.” If you do that, God will remove your sin, and He will accept you as His child forever. Now we must also add that although it is true that God does not hear the prayer of non-Christians, it is also true that He does not hear prayers offered by many Christians. In fact, the Bible says that God will never hear a Christian’s prayer so long as the Christian is clinging to some sin in his heart. If this describes you, you must confess your sin openly and frankly, knowing that God “is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). We can only pray if our lives are open books before Him.

Everything that has been noted up to this point has ourselves as the center; but if you know what prayer is, you know also that prayer necessarily involves other people. The Bible calls such prayer “intercession” (1 Tim 2:1). As we meet with God in prayer – at the beginning of a day, at its end, or in any moment throughout it – these concerns should also be a part of our conversation with Him. We should have great boldness as we present the concerns of others.

There is one other point about prayer that comes directly from this passage. Prayer is not only talking with God, nor is it only intercession for others. Prayer is also an opportunity to present our requests to Him. Paul calls them petitions. God invites us to place our earnest requests before Him. This is God’s cure for anxiety. Christians are troubled about many things. You may be troubled about your work, your family, the future, money, sex, or happiness. God invites you to place your request about these things before Him. The promise of the verse is that the peace of God will keep your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 Reflection Questions:

Are you clinging to some sin in your heart? Repent now!

What type of relationship with God would you say you have?

What is your definition of “praying without ceasing?”

How did God answer Paul’s prayer while in chains in Rome? Did he get peace?

Isaiah 26:1-27:1 Waiting for the Glory that shall be


We have seen Isaiah depressed by the painful realities of the present and the exultant at the glorious prospect of the future. But between these extremes lies the settled disposition of patient trustful waiting to which the people of God must return again and again. It is to be their hallmark as they live out their lives in the world as it is. This note was struck in 25:9, is now developed at some length in a song which captures beautifully the tension between the promise of the “then” and the pain of the “now”. It begins with anticipatory celebration (vv. 1-6), turns back to reflect on the pain of waiting (vv. 7-19), and concludes with an oracle which confirms the final victory (vv. 26:20-27:1).

The formula “in that day” runs like a refrain through these chapters, and it is full of the certainty born of faith. No matter how perplexing or painful the present might be, Isaiah was confident that the whole of human history was converging on a single point which had been determined by God in advance. And then God’s people would have much to celebrate. The first stanza (26:1-6) is about two cities. The strong city of verse 1 is the new Zion, the city of God of the future that will rise above the ruins of the lofty city (v. 5), the human city which God will have destroyed by His judgment. He will destroy the false only to raise up the true. While this city is in the land of Judah, it should not be understood in narrowly nationalistic terms, for its gates are open (v. 2), and the one qualification for entrance is a steadfast trust in the Lord (vv. 3-4). This truth is gloriously filled out for us in the New Testament. We, as the people of the new covenant, have already become citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem which will one day become an earthly reality. The righteous nation of verse 2 is in fact a new people of God drawn from all over the earth. They are the oppressed and the poor whose righteousness consists simply in this: they have cast themselves wholly upon the Lord for their salvation.

The keynote for reflection which follows the song is struck in verse 8: Lord…we wait for you. While they wait for the final day to dawn, the righteous are perplexed by the perversity and blindness of the wicked who surround them on every hand (vv. 10-11). Such people do not understand kindness; the longer the Lord delays the worse they get, hence the longing for Him to act decisively to establish righteousness (vv. 9, 11b).

More perplexing, however, is the apparent harshness with which the Lord treats the very ones who are looking to Him to save them. He chastises them so severely that they twist and turn likes a woman in labor (vv. 16-17). Their commitment to the Lord brings them nothing but frustration and a sense of complete failure (18b). There is surely an acute crisis of faith here which must issue in either despair or a breakthrough to a new understanding of God’s ways. It is a testimony to the resilience of Old Testament faith that such crises always do, in fact, turn out to be occasions for fresh light to breakthrough, and that is certainly the case here.

The Lord has come to the rescue of His people time and again in the past (vv. 13-14) and He will certainly do so again (v. 15). But there is one further perplexity to be faced before the breakthrough can come, and it is implicit in verse 19. What about those who die in the time of waiting, who have put their trust in the Lord but experienced no fulfillment? Will they suffer the same fate as the wicked, described in verse 14, and miss out on the triumph to come? Verse 19 issues a resounding “No!” Their waiting will not be in vain. They will be raised from death to share in the final victory. Here again is that victory over death already glimpsed in 25:8. The short oracle of 26:20-27:1 adds the capstone to the theme of waiting in language that recalls the experience of the Israelites in Egypt.

Isaiah’s contemporaries could not put the world right any more than their ancestors could, nor were they expected to do so. All the Lord required was trustful waiting. To them the wait seemed long; to Him it was only a little while (v. 20). So too for us. The truths which break through the clouds in this chapter are trumpeted from the housetops in the New Testament. There the certainty of our own resurrection is signed and sealed by the resurrection of Jesus, and we are encouraged to count the troubles of the waiting time as nothing compared with the glory that awaits us.

Isaiah 26:1-27:1 Reflection Questions:

What is your patience (waiting) level? When you finally gave in and patiently waited for God what was the result or blessing you received? What can you learn from that?

What can help you deal with the “In between time”?

Do you have a steadfast trust in the Lord?

Have you cast yourself wholly upon the Lord Jesus for your salvation?

What is the main message you gain from this study?

Philippians 4:2-5 Getting Along with Other Christians


Have you ever tried to tell someone something but have found it difficult either because you feared it might be offensive or because you knew the person might not understand? If so, you can understand Paul’s position as we consider the fourth chapter of Philippians, verses 2-5. Paul was trying to say something to the Philippians that was difficult for him to say because he was afraid that the persons involved might resent it.

Apparently there had been trouble at Philippi. Two of the Christian women had been at odds with one another and the disagreement had grown to the point where it could hinder the unity and effectiveness of the church. Paul wished to warn them of the danger and wanted to urge a more cooperative spirit. But these women were his friends, and every time he approached the subject of unity in the letter he seemed to come short of a direct application. With our verses we are studying today Paul has finally pointed directly to the lack of harmony within the church. Notice he does not elaborate on the problem; he does not even reprove or command those involved. Instead he quietly points to the means by which unity may be restored among us and other Christians.

We must recognize at the outset, however, that the unity referred to here is a Christian unity, and this means a unity only among those in God’s family. Paul says that Euodia and Syntyche are “to agree with each other in the Lord.” Who are those “in the Lord”? Only those, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ; Christian unity is only possible for them. There are some practical ways in which the harmony that exists initially among God’s children is to be expressed and maintained. Paul tactfully lists them in his brief remarks to Euodia and Syntyche.

First, Paul says that Christians are to agree with each other in the Lord. This means they are to have the mind of Christ. It is the same thing that Paul had in mind earlier in 2:5. He is speaking of the attitude that Jesus had in relation to others. For the mind of Christ is the humble mind, the lowly mind. It is the mind of One who did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but who emptied Himself to die for the salvation and well-being of others. This will never occur apart from a personal and intimate walk with God, for in ourselves we do not like humility, and we cannot achieve it without Him.

Second, we must work with other Christians. Paul calls attention to this aspect of unity by referring to his fellow workers at Philippi. Paul is saying that it is not enough for Christians merely to be thinking in a spirit of unity, they must be working in a spirit of unity also. Paul was looking back to the glorious days he had spent in Philippi among the Christians. He was thinking of the great joy he had as he worked with them for spiritual ends. Now that unity is threatened, he says to them, “Keep on. Do not let your unity be ruined by friction between your members. Work together. Make sure your unity can be seen in your actions.

The third thing that the Philippians must do is to rejoice in the Lord (v. 4). Paul knew that if Christians are rejoicing in God’s mercy and goodness they are not so likely to be nitpicking with their fellow Christians. The word “rejoice” is interesting, for it is only a variant form of the word “joy,” which is one of the great Christian virtues and the fruit of God’s spirit. Consequently rejoicing, like joy, is supernatural. Joy is the Christian virtue; happiness is the virtue of the world. There is all the difference in the world between them. Happiness is entirely external and circumstantial. Joy issues from the nature of God, and it is intended to well up within those in whom God’s Spirit dwells. It is not external; it is internal. It does not hinge upon circumstances. Things may happen to the Christian that no one, including the Christian, would be happy about. But there can still be joy. The Christian who is filled with this supernatural, abounding joy will not be finding grounds for disagreement with fellow Christians.

Finally, Paul says that Christians are to let their “gentleness be evident to all” (v. 5). Literally, Paul means they should be “reasonable.” The sentence is a warning not to be unduly rigorous about unimportant matters. This does not mean that Christians are to be compromising in their doctrinal beliefs. Actually, he is merely saying that those who profess the name of Christ should be a bit bending in their attitudes, especially where other Christians are concerned.

None of these high standards of conduct is easy. The difficulty of doing them and living them is where the problem of unity lies. It is one thing read these Scriptures, but it’s quite another thing putting the words into practice. Fortunately, Paul knew the difficulty also, and he has given us the solution to the problem. Have you ever noticed how many times he speaks of being “in the Lord” in the first four verses of this chapter? Three times! And once he reminds the Philippians that “the Lord is near.” The solution is the Lord Jesus Christ. It is He who will do in the lives of yielded Christians what we might judge impossible. Christian unity will occur only as we surrender ourselves to Him and seek His will, as his Holy Spirit enters our lives and begins to make us into the kind of men, women, children, and young people that He would have us be.

Philippians 4:2-5 Reflection Questions:

Do you have an ongoing personal and intimate relationship with God?

What does “being in the Lord” mean to you? And how does that help you have Christian unity?

What are some examples of happiness verses being jofuly?

Isaiah 25:1-12 The Great Banquet


It’s fitting that the triumph of God should be celebrated with feasting and song, and this is in fact what we have in this chapter. The banquet in verses 6-8 is certainly the centerpiece, and it is framed by songs of praise: a personal song in verses 1-5, and a communal song in verses 9-12. The theme of both songs is the character of God which has been plainly revealed in His acts of judgment and salvation. And this God is no stranger to the singers; they know Him (vv. 1 & 9).

The lone singer of verses 1-5 is best taken as Isaiah himself, whose gloom has at last been dispelled by glorious prospect with which his vision in chapter 24 ended. Isaiah is impressed by the sheer power of the Lord’s deeds, but even more by their purposefulness and moral character. The city of verse 2, like that of the previous chapter, represents the world as a whole organized in opposition to God. He destroys it, not for any spiteful satisfaction He may have in doing so, but in order to bring the nations to their senses (v. 3) and to deliver those who have been victims of their misuse of power (vv. 4-5). God always has been and always will be on the side of the poor and needy. It’s something that we who profess to believe in Him would do well to remember.

This focus on the poor and needy in the opening song makes it particularly appropriate that final salvation should be pictured in verses 6-8 as a feast at which, by implication, the food is free. That food is the very best of fare, and the Host is the Lord Almighty Himself. It is of course, a victory celebration, but in the description of the feast new dimensions of that victory are revealed. It will be total victory because it will include victory over the ultimate enemy – death itself (v. 8a). Hence the destruction of the shroud or sheet in verse 7, which represents the universal sorrow that death has brought into the world, and the wiping away of tears in verse 8a.

Chapter 55 sheds a little more light (the rich food is abundant pardon), but we have to turn to the New Testament for the full picture. The banquet consists of the blessings of the gospel, of which all are invited to partake, the decisive victory over death is won in the death and resurrection of Jesus, and God’s people enter fully into that victory when Jesus returns. It is then that death is finally “swallowed up” forever, pain and sorrow (Isaiah’s shroud) are removed, and tears are wiped away. Isaiah’s words, as always, are pregnant with gospel truth.

But final judgment is just as much an aspect of gospel truth as final salvation, and it is this solemn note that is struck as we move from the end of the banquet scene into the second song. The people of God have waited long for their salvation (v. 9), and during this time they have been objects of disgrace (v. 8) in the world. But the day of which Isaiah speaks here will see a complete reversal in their fortunes: they will rejoice and be glad (v. 9) while their proud enemies (represented by Moab) will be cast down and experience utter humiliation (vv. 10-12). In the end their will be a great gulf fixed between those who are at the feast and those who are not. It will not suffice to have belonged to a group close the kingdom, to have stood on its very threshold, or to have known some who have entered. Either repentance will bring you to the feast or pride will keep you away, and the consequences will be unsullied joy or unspeakable terrible judgment. The alternatives which the gospel sets before us are as stark as that!

Isaiah 25:1-12 Reflection Questions:

What famous sermon did Jesus talk about the poor and needy?

Do you have a personal song to glorify God for what He has done for you? How often to you sing it?

How does this study impact your understanding of David’s Psalm 23?

Are you a part time Christian or are you all in? The road is narrow.

Philippians 4:1 Therefore – Stand Firm


Because of what Jesus Christ has done for us – because of His life, death, and resurrection, and the resulting victory over sin and the devil – we are now to stand fast in Him, united as God’s soldiers against a spiritually hostile environment.

It’s a remarkable fact that at several crucial junctures in Paul’s letters the practical outcome of the Christian’s warfare against the world and Satan is defined as a matter of “standing,” and this is even more remarkable because it is part of a military metaphor. If we were writing the passage and were using Paul’s image, we should most likely speak of invasion, marching, or conquest. But Paul does not do that; instead, he speaks of standing. God does not tell us to march into battle or to conquer, God tells us to stand, and the implication of that command is that God has already done or is doing the conquering. We are only to hold the ground He conquers.

The difference between marching and standing is the difference between offense and defensive warfare. It’s like a football game; the defense has the ground (goal) and the offense is fighting in order to get the ground (goal). And that is precisely the difference between the warfare waged by the Lord Jesus and the warfare waged by us. Jesus was offensive; our is defensive. Jesus warred against Satan in order to gain the victory. Through the cross He carried that warfare to the threshold of Hell itself, to lead forth thence his captivity captive (4:8-9). Today we war against Satan only to maintain and consolidate the victory which He has already gained. By the resurrection God proclaimed His Son victor over the whole realm of darkness, and the ground Christ won He has given to us. We do not need to fight to obtain it. We only need to hold it against all challengers.

Standing on the work of the Lord Jesus Christ and on His promises does not mean there will not be work for us to do. There will always be testing. There will often be much strenuous activity. It does not mean escape. But it does mean that even in the activity and even in the testing there can be and overriding confidence in God and in His promises. We shall know we are merely standing on ground that He has already won and given to us. By His grace we shall expect at the end of the battle still to be standing with Him victorious and in triumphant possession of the field.

Philippians 4:1 Reflection Questions:

What are the conquests that Jesus has made for those who trust Him?

How are you doing your part in standing with Jesus?

What is He calling you to do for Him