Gratitude—central in prayer and worship

Posted Mar 13, 2019

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Daily Scripture

Philippians 4:6-7

6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. 7 Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

Reflection Questions

Paul did not write this counsel from some abstract ivory tower, sheltered from all trouble or conflict. He was in prison when he wrote Philippians (cf. Philippians 1:13). When some “super apostles” scorned his ministry in Corinth, he sent the Corinthian Christians a vivid portrait of his challenging path of service (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:23-28). He knew well what it meant to “give thanks in every situation.”

  • Artists and photographers know that often how we frame a picture alters what we focus on in it. Paul urged a kind of framing in Philippians 4. “When we bring the things that cause us stress into prayer, we put ourselves and our troubles inside a much bigger picture: the story of God’s love for us in Jesus Christ…. And that leads to thanksgiving.”* What helps you remember to look at life’s big picture more than the unpleasant little details?
  • Memorizing key parts of the Bible takes the Bible’s message off the page and stores it in your mind and heart, where the Holy Spirit can call it to your attention at any moment of challenge or need. Which part(s) of today’s passage would you most like to keep handy in your mind, where you don’t even need a printed card or Bible in order to draw on their wisdom at a time of need?

Respond

Appreciate. We are grateful to God for so many things, but we don’t always specifically take time to say thank you. Use this time to specifically recall instances when you have seen God at work. Write a letter to God expressing your appreciation for an event that took place this week. Try to be as specific as possible and include how you felt God connecting with you in this experience.

Prayer

Lord, the Psalmist wrote, “I keep your word close, in my heart” (Psalm 119:11). I ask for your help as I, too, seek to keep your teaching close in my memory and my heart. Amen.


* Cynthia M. Campbell, sidebar article “Stress” in The CEB Women’s Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2016, p. 1492.

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Jennifer Creagar

Jennifer Creagar

Jennifer Creagar is the Financial Care Program Director in Congregational Care at Resurrection Leawood. She is married and loves spending time with her family, and she enjoys writing and photography.

Philippians 4:6 Don’t be anxious about anything; rather, bring up all of your requests to God in your prayers and petitions, along with giving thanks. Then the peace of God that exceeds all understanding will keep your hearts and minds safe in Christ Jesus.

 Don’t think about bananas.

Do you remember that game from childhood?  Don’t think about bananas…or ice cream…or sea monsters. Immediately, all you can think about is bananas, or ice cream, or sea monsters. When we are anxious, our anxious thoughts take over our minds and our hearts. The harder we try to think about something else, the more we think about the situation, person, or fear that is filling us with anxiety. The rest of the world is happy to join this vicious circle, reinforcing our anxiety through 24-hour news cycles and social media posts, all calling out “bananas!”

Paul says that the way to break out of this cycle is to pray, and to give thanks. The prayer part seems natural enough – we are usually pretty good at making requests in our prayers. But what about giving thanks in the midst of our anxiety, fear, or anger? What if I don’t feel thankful for this banana that is keeping me up all night?

A very wise person once told me that the secret to ending the cycle of anxiety was to find where God was in my worry. He’s promised to be there. When I find him, reaching out his hand to comfort me, reassure me, and give me peace, it seems very natural to say:

“Thank you. Thank you for being here. Thank you for turning my eyes away from the disaster. Thank you for helping me stay in the present, instead of reliving the past or trying to control the future. Thank you for quieting all the voices (including my own) that only want me to think about bananas.”

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