by Tony Nester

Staying Focused
Tony Nester
Philippians 4:4-8

Have you wondered why animal trainers carry a stool when they go into a cage of lions? They have whips and pistols, but they also carry a stool. I read once that the stool is their most important tool. The lion tamer holds the stool by the back and thrusts the legs toward the face of the wild animal. The lion tries to focus on all four legs at once. In the attempt to focus on all four, a kind of paralysis overwhelms the animal, and it becomes weak and disabled because its attention is fragmented.

I've found that this is also the way it is with faith. We come to church and are inspired with a lion-like faith. But then we leave and life comes at us all over again. Circumstances push a four-legged stool in our face - the job, money, marriage, school and whatever else is staring us in the face - and our faith gets tamed and weak - even at times, disabled. We've lost focus.

In today's Scripture reading from the Apostle Paul and his letter to the Philippians we have some spiritual counsel that gives us two ways to maintain our focus.

The first one is the right kind of prayer. The second is the right kind of thinking.

Let's begin with the right kind of prayer.

Here's how Paul tells us to pray:

{6} Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

I want you to notice how Paul frames prayer - he tells us that the kind of prayer is prayer that places our requests before God in whom we have great confidence.

Requests are different from demands. The reason so many people give up on God, or become angry with God, is because their prayers are demands and not requests.

Such people turn prayer into spiritual blackmail. What they are saying to God is something like:

"God, you must do this for me. If you don't, I'll quit believing in you. I'll never trust you again. I'll fall apart. I'll ...

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