By: Cheri Fuller
"The more you pray, the less you’ll panic.
The more you worship, the less you worry.
You’ll feel more patient and less pressured."
Praying the Four Ps
When Esther returned to her room after the seminar, she had a long talk with God. “I’ve always been able to count on everything in Your Word. I’m going to put these verses into practice, regardless of how I feel,” she said. She prayed through the four Ps, mechanically at first, and gave the whole situation and her patient to God. She prayed for God to pour out His tender mercies and healing power in this woman’s life and to protect her and bless her. Thanking Him for this awful trial was hard, but when she did, she experienced a few brief minutes of peace.
However, five minutes later, the worries started up again. Over and over again she gave the problematic situation to God, thanked Him the best she could for how He was working, and consciously focused on His character and truth. Each time, she received a little bit longer respite of peace. As she continued praying this way, those small blocks of peace gradually grew from five minutes to ten and then twenty. But the next morning when she awoke, Esther’s heart was beating wildly. She’s going to die. I’m going to prison. Who will care for Tim and our four girls? She went against the strong tide of her feelings, got down on her knees, and prayed according to the pattern in Philippians. And this time when the anxiety returned, it wasn’t with as much agony.
Throughout the second day and while listening to other messages, she kept giving God her problems, offering her thanks, centering her mind on His faithfulness. The moments without worry grew. By Sunday, the peace she was experiencing, even before she knew if anything had changed or what news she’d get at the hospital the next day, was so profound, she couldn’t make herself worry. Before, when her thoughts wandered to the situation, she was filled with terror. But in those three days of almost continual prayer, she’d moved from despair to confidence in God—whatever the outcome.
Amazingly, in the next few weeks, Esther saw with her own eyes her patient not only improve, but her cancer go into remission. Although the doctor never admitted the final dose of chemo had helped turn her condition around, Esther knew God had been at work in her patient’s life as well as her own. The pattern of prayer in Philippians 4, casting all her cares and worries on God and thanking Him in the midst of struggles, cultivated a deep intimacy that sustained Esther in waves of difficulty and tragedy that hit her life in the next few years: her mother-in-law’s massive stroke, which necessitated Esther becoming her full-time caretaker in their home. It kept her from panic during the death of one daughter, the out-of-wedlock pregnancy of another daughter, her husband’s cancer and surgery, and their move to another state where God was calling him to pastor.
Instead of panicking, Esther prayed, and found God’s incredible peace was always available. Be anxious for nothing—let nothing worry you—covers a lot of ground. It covers fear, guilt, anger, all the things that cause anxiety to well up. By handling troubling producing situations with prayer, whether it’s a small concern (I’m afraid this hairdresser is ruining my hair) or a big one (I’m afraid my patient is going to die or I’m afraid my child is going to leave God and youth group and get into drugs)—God instead of the circumstances becomes our focus, and peace replaces panic.
Wonder replaces worry—wonder at God’s peace, which is more than the human mind can comprehend, wonder at His faithfulness and provision, so that we can “celebrate God all day, every day. . .revel in him!” (Philippians 4:4 msg).
A. W. Tozer calls this the “astonished wonder” and awe that is at the heart of true worship. This sense of “spiritual astonishment” or wonder happens among men and women when the Holy Spirit is present, working in their lives, just as what happened in Esther’s life.
Prayer needs to be our first resource, not a last resort as we face problems in daily life. In our stressful world, prayer is the best thing we can do to quiet our hearts and thoughts. Even secular medical research is revealing the amazing effects of prayer. Studies at Duke University and elsewhere show that daily prayer is so effective in reducing stress that it cuts women’s risk of anxiety by as much as 81 percent. The act of praying triggers biochemical changes in the brain and adds a sense of safety and purpose to our lives.
© 2015 by Back to the Bible.
“From Replacing Worry for Wonder, published by Barbour Publishing, Inc. Used by permission.”