Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7)
This is one of my favorite scripture passages. It is incredibly replete with guidance for living a life filled with faith and grace. In this season of Thanksgiving and of preparation for Advent celebrations, as well as this time of tremendous transition and change, both in our Church and in our culture, I appreciate Paul’s instructions for living in the joy and peace of God in Christ Jesus: “Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
“Do not worry about anything…” How easily we worry. When life is uncertain – and these are certainly uncertain times – we tend to prefer to know what’s going to happen – to be in control of all the events in our lives. We have learned all sorts of ways to help us feel more secure and certain (knock on wood) and fend off potential disaster or dismay or disappointment. How can we possibly stop worrying, especially not worrying about anything? I love a quote from Cicero: “It is foolish to tear one’s hair out in grief (or fear or worry or…), as though grief (or change or chaos or…) could be lessened by baldness.” The images this conjures in my mind are silly and playful enough, that it stops me from focusing on whatever I feel like tearing out my hair over. And I can let go – and move on to the next part of Paul’s instructions:
“…but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” In everything. Yes, my worries. Yes, our fears. Yes, whatever is uncomfortably, distressingly present in our hearts and minds. We can offer them all – everything – to God “in prayer and supplication” (humble, earnest asking). Everything going on in our lives can be offered to God and trust that God is present and offering us whatever hope and healing and grace and fortitude we need for this moment. However, the most important element of all of this is “…with thanksgiving” – offering thanks even when we are uncertain, before we experience any blessing or relief or peace. Paul understands and teaches us that when we open ourselves to God in prayer with thanksgiving, we open ourselves, not to every prayer being answered the ways we want, but rather we open ourselves to the guarding “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” and we can live, then, in the deepest joy in the nearness and presence of God.
Let us pray: Ever-present God, we bring our worries and frustrations, our challenges and fears, our hopes and dreams to you – to your grace, blessing and peace. Help us to live fully in faith. We offer ourselves whole-heartedly and whole-mindedly, with great thanksgiving, to all the gifts you give. Thank you. Thank you. In the name of Christ Jesus, Amen.