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Rev. Peter Aiken
Special to The Guardian
The spread of the coronavirus has not only altered our lives, but it has left many feeling anxious and afraid. There is concern about the impact and the spread of the virus and about all the uncertainties that lie ahead.
In Philippians 4:6-7, the apostle Paul writes, “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.”
In these verses, we are directed on how we are to respond when we are prone to being anxious.
Paul exhorts us to respond to our troubles by turning to God in prayer. Prayer is an expression of our dependence on God with all our needs. When we don’t sense our need, it is easy to live as though we are self-sufficient. But when our circumstances change, we are forced to confess that there is much in life that escapes our control.
Our problem, though, is not simply a matter of acknowledging that we are dependent creatures, but it is revealed in the fact that we are disinclined to turn to God, who is in control, and depending on Him. This disposition was first manifested in our first parents. In the garden, Adam and Eve wanted to be like God themselves and chose to live in such a way that did not trust or depend on God. As a result of their action, a deadly virus called sin came upon all their descendants. This virus is beyond our ability to remove, and it separates us from God and from trusting in Him. But God showed His grace by sending the Lord Jesus into this world to remove the deadly virus of sin through his substitutionary death on the cross.
Jesus’ death not only addressed our greatest need but through his work, we discover that God is worthy of our trust in all circumstances.
When we turn to God with all our concerns and entrust to Him to direct all things in His wisdom and grace, we can live with the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. This peace is not based on our circumstances. Neither is it based on an assumption that we have everything under control. Rather, it is a peace that comes in knowing that the God, who is in control, is worthy of our trust.
He has shown us His grace and favour in addressing our greatest need, and so we can trust him through all the hardships of life. When we turn to God, we discover that God can work through our anxiety to uncover something of our own selves and to cause us to trust in Him in concrete ways.
How then are we to pray to God when it is hard not to be anxious? Paul writes that we are to make known to God whatever it is that weighs on our hearts knowing that God cares for us. We can be praying for the sick, the vulnerable, the essential workers, the unemployed, students, churches and the government.
Paul also mentions that our prayers are to be flavoured “with thanksgiving”. Our prayers are not made in fear, but in faith. We are to make our requests known in light of His care for us in Christ and when we do, we can have peace in facing every situation.
Rev. Peter Aiken is with Birchwood Church (birchwoodchurch.org). A guest sermon runs regularly in Saturday’s Guardian and is provided through Christian Communications.