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Providence and Prayer

Prayer and divine providence are closely related… so close that they are difficult to separate! For when we humbly petition our God in prayer, we do so hoping, expecting, that He will listen and provide for us what we seek. For what do we pray in supplication? A loved one be healed? A burden be lifted? A blessing be given? Much of our prayer, by its nature, is asking God to provide what we need and desire.

So, what is divine providence? First, there is the providence that speaks to God, the Creator, establishing the forces of nature. God is everywhere, watching, overseeing, and governing everything for the best interest of man. He did not create the world and then turn it over to chance. He is in control over wind, rain, and weather. He provides for the animal kingdom, and for us, with food, clothing, and shelter. He controls all things according to His will, His purpose. And secondly, there is His providence for the individual, for you and for me. That is the providence which my message focuses on today.

Is God in everything? The question supposes that there are things in this world that are outside His reach, beyond His attention, not of interest to Him. God’s hand is in everything. Nothing is beyond Him or beneath His notice. Not that God works everything which comes to pass.  Man is still a free moral agent, but God is near….

Matthew 6 "25 do not worry about your life, what you will eat, what you will drink; nor about your body… 26Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?.....  28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?"

In verse 25 of this chapter, Jesus tells us of God's providence for His creation, to take no thought (not be anxious) for our lives. God, who gave us our lives and our bodies, will provide us food and raiment. Jesus is not teaching laziness here. We are to work, doing our best (Eph. 4:28), then leave the rest to God. In verse 26, Jesus tells us to "behold the fowls of the air." God feeds them, and we are of much more value than fowls, so God will feed and take care of us. Jesus then teaches the proper course to pursue in our life (verse 33): "but seek Ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness" and God, through His providence, will supply our temporal needs. He said, "Take therefore no thought for the morrow" (v. 34), because God will providentially care for us.

Now, let's speak of God's providence, as in answer to prayer for the individual.  Why else would the apostle write to the Philippians: 4 4 Rejoice in the Lord always. Again, I will say, rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand.6 Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; 7 and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Prayer is an act of faith. Prayer is the request of man to God, through the Holy Spirit, to act on behalf of the one who prays. We pray not to inform God, but to let Him know what He already knows. We pray, because we need Him. And we know that He hears us and has the power to answer our prayer! In verse 6 of Philippians 4,  the Apostle Paul states clearly, "Be anxious for nothing." In other words, once you have prayed to God, shared your worries and requests with Him, you are to cast aside your worries. Yes, it is easier said than done, but we must! It's an element of faith, for we know God hears, cares, and is able! Once we have prayed to God, pleaded with Him to heal or to provide, we are to "be anxious for nothing." In today's way of speaking, "it's in God's hands now! His will be done!" We must have faith that He hears our prayer, is able to supply our request, and we must accept His will.

1 John 5 14 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15 And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.

Do you believe that God really acts in response to our prayers? The Bible says He does. James said, (Jas. 1:5-8) "5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways." Our dear brother, John Clark, used to say that a double-minded man is only "half smart!"

In the latter part of James 5:16, we read that "The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much." We are told to be righteous. We are to pray fervently. Pray often and fervently. Be that man! 

"For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous,
And His ears are open to their prayers;" 1 Peter 3:12