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Thoughts From My Prayer Retreat
“Don’t let anyone steal your joy” was what one of our members wrote on her prayer request card. She couldn’t know how important those words would be to me. The first part of my annual prayer retreat was largely a wrestling match between me and God. I struggled with anger and other ugly emotions but this simple line, “Don’t let anyone steal your joy” took me to the New Testament letter written to people who had allowed their joy to be stolen: Philippians.
Reading the letter it became apparent that 4:4-9 contained a message God wanted to me to learn. I eventually memorized the passage by repeating it over and over while taking a long walk. What I want to share in this blog is the message God taught me through this passage. What follows is copied from my journal notes written on my retreat.
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5 Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. (4:4-5) So deep is this passage. Rejoice is the “command” and the rest of the text tells us how. It is not through dogged determination and gritted teeth that one practices this command. Whatever the situation may be the Lord is near. You have not been abandoned. You do not need to rely on your meager resources. There is no need to be harsh or demanding. Let gentleness be evident.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (4:6) Anxiety will eat us up on the inside. It is that fear of what is coming that is nebulous and cloudy. Anxiety convinces one that things are going to be very bad. The Lord is near. Talk to him and ponder the good he has already done in your life. Let requests be mixed with thanksgiving.
And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding,will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (4:7) Peace is what we all want but so often it seems to allude us. The Lord is near and wherever he is present will be a place of peace. Go to him and let him guard your heart and your mind. Your heart is the source of your spiritual life and your mind controls your thoughts and actions.
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (4:8) Therefore, fill your mind with all things that are of God: truth, nobility, righteousness, and beauty. Think about things that are truly excellent and praise worthy.
Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (4:9) Finally, consider the most godly, patient, loving person you know. How would they deal with your situation? Picture them going through what you are and yet maintaining their joy in the Lord. Imitate that. The God of peace is with you.