One of the discussion questions in our small group meeting tonight was, “What difference does prayer make in your life?” One sister answered, simply, “It’s the difference between a good day and a bad day.” She explained that prayer makes all the difference in her day, even though it may not change the details of the day. Prayer makes the difference in how I respond to the circumstances of my day, she said.
This dear sister was absolutely right.
Indeed, there are times when God responds to our prayers by direct, divine intervention that changes things in our lives in dramatic ways. But there are other times – most of the time, I would say – when God responds to prayer by changing us rather than (or before he) changes our circumstances.
This is what Philippians 4:6-7 teaches: “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 all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (ESV).
This is God’s answer for your anxieties. We are to be anxious for nothing. We are to pray about everything. Rather than letting our circumstances strangle us with mixed emotions, we should make our requests known to God with thanksgiving. And Philippians 4:7 promises that God will answer prayer. However, it does not promise divine intervention. It promises divine insulation. It does not promise that God will guard your health, family, or career if you pray. It declares that the peace of God, which surpasses understanding, will guard your heart and mind through Christ Jesus.
This is the difference prayer makes. So even when prayer does not seem to be making any difference in your situation, don’t stop praying. When you pray, God may not fix all of your problems, but he will give you strength and peace and wisdom to trust and obey, no matter what the problem may be.
The bottom-line is that God is always more concerned about what is going on within you than what is going on around you. Or to you. Or against you. Your internal disposition is always more important than your external circumstances. Be sure, God is ready and willing and able to change things in your life. But until he does – or even if he does not – trust him to provide his peace as a spiritual “climate control” system, so that you may have peace within while the storm is raging all around you.
Remember, Isaiah 26:3-4 is still true: “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.”