The effect of thankful prayer is the surpassing, protecting peace of God.
That’s the message of verse 7. Notice how the word “guard” is used here. This was the word used of the way in which garrisons would guard the gates of a city, not from the outside, but from the inside. The effect? This interior guard can protect against those things that go out from us, as well as those things that come against us from the outside.
In like manner, God must guard our heart from the inside by the indwelling power of His Holy Spirit. It is God’s peace (or more accurately, that peace produced by God) that guards us.
He guards our hearts—that protects our disposition; and He guards our minds—that protects our thought life. We need this divine protection against the assaults of the enemy within and without.
In his commentary on Philippians, John Calvin noted:
In these words Paul exhorts the Philippians, to cast all their care upon the Lord. For we are not made of iron, so as not to be shaken by temptations. But this is our consolation, this is our solace —to deposit, or (to speak with greater propriety) to disburden in the bosom of God everything that harasses us.
God is telling us how to “disburden” ourselves through prayer. There are two things we’re to notice about this peace of God. First, it surpasses all understanding. This peace of God “goes beyond all human reasoning and all logic.”
The word for understanding here is literally the mind; the processes of logical thought. But God’s peace surpasses even this!
It’s a non-logical (not il-logical!) peace which is calm even in the face of tremendous adversity. Here is a peace that, quite frankly, doesn’t make any sense to the logical mind. It surpasses all understanding.
Several years ago I was on a week-long trip to Arizona for some meetings. Part of that trip included a chartered flight over the Grand Canyon in a 727 jet.
As we flew into the mouth of the canyon, an air current caused our plane to suddenly lose altitude. We were plummeting, not nose-first, just flat down into the canyon.
At that moment there was no time for a logical exercise of peace-making. Yet I felt remarkably calm and filled with an unspeakable peace. Not that I would live, but that whether I lived or died, it would be alright.
Well, the plane swept back up on the next air current and the color returned to the faces of the nauseated flight attendants. When you see that—you know it’s going to be okay. But what was this peace I felt?
I can tell you this, it wasn’t anything that I could grab hold of in that moment of alarm. The crisis was too sudden for that. Fear streaked through that airplane like lightening through a metal pipe.
The only way I can explain it is as a peace that instantly grabbed hold of me… and enveloped me. It was not a logical peace, it surpassed all understanding. That’s the first thing we’re to notice about this peace of God. But we need to see something else.
Second, this peace of God is a protecting peace. It will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. The heart and the mind… these are the venues of our being.
It’s not enough to guard just one or the other. If the enemy gets a foothold in either of these prime territories, we can be easily defeated with prayerless anxiety. God’s peace protects the heart and the mind.
You remember the story in Mark chapter 4. While the anxious disciples were panicked by the storm, Jesus, being aware of the Father’s protecting peace—slept away in the stern. What a picture of our situation in times of crisis!
Spurgeon said, “Jesus reveals himself so graciously, and gives such sweet refreshment, that the warrior feels more calm and peace in his daily strife than others in their hours of rest.”
Because only God knows the full scope of our mortal conflict, only He can adequately guard our hearts and minds against the dark forces of the hidden foe.
The child of God who takes anxiety and turns it into a passionate prayer to God will experience this surpassing, protecting peace of God. This is the benefit of one who prays for everything with both prayer and supplication, making your requests known to God.
The one who prays for everything may experience God’s peace in everything. The text leaves no room for doubt. He doesn’t say the peace of God may guard (as if there were some doubt)… but this peace of God most certainly will guard your hearts and minds… through Christ Jesus.
Note the means of this guarantee. This inerrant promise is stamped with the name and imprimatur of God’s own dear Son. It cannot fail! But will you fail to ask?
The only prayer God cannot answer is the one you refuse to pray. The only request God cannot grant is the one you refuse to ask. He says ask… pray… request.
We’re an anxious people, living in anxious times. But there is the voice of one who knows the souls and strifes of all, His words through the Apostle Paul still exhort us…
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
Every one of us has a mental worry list. The list may change from day to day. But what God says to each of us this morning is to take that list—scratch out the heading “worry list” and change it to prayer requests—then something amazing will begin to happen. The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.
With joy in His peace,