Manage episode 370822379 series 3023172
Last night, we looked St. Paul's life and his journey through his letter to the Philippians. Today's passage comes from the end of the same letter. He stresses the importance of prayer.
Prayer was important to St. Paul. For him, it wasn't an act of religious piety. Prayer was central to his journey of knowing Christ and his power. It was the bedrock of his life. That's why he urged those to whom he sent his letters to pray. To the Thessalonian community, he also wrote
Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17)
Prayer shouldn't remain a concept. Otherwise, we will never pray. We know we should, but it will just be a nice idea. Yes, we reflect on prayer in a setting like this. It is important to have a good understanding of prayer. But ultimately, prayer has to be LIVED. It has to be an integral part of our journey of knowing Christ and his power.
Prayer is not necessarily the words we say. Neither is it a means of getting God to do what we want. God already knows what is on our hearts before we say a word. Prayer has to do with connectedness. Prayer is giving our complete and undivided attention to God.
That is why we often find praying difficult. Our minds are so distracted and divided. It takes effort to bring ourselves to God. We are too tired to do anything else.
But no one ever said praying would be nice, comfortable and easy. St. Paul asked three times that his thorn be removed. Jesus even struggled when he prayed. He felt like he was being pulled in many directions at once. He strained to keep God as the focus of his prayer. Not my will, but yours be done. Yet when he finally fixed his eyes not on his thoughts but on God, he found the strength to carry on in his journey. He found peace that made all his fears and worries lose their grip over him. Later, he promised the same peace to those who were feeling anxious and afraid.
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid. (John 14:27)
We have already been given the gift of peace in Christ. But we often lose sight of this precious gift because our eyes turn elsewhere.
In that sense, giving our attention to God is trusting wholeheartedly in God's goodness. It is choosing to put our trust in God over anything else that might demand our attention. So simple yet difficult. But I believe that is the essence of prayer. St. Paul tells us today
Do not be anxious 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 4:6, 7)
We don't need to worry about what we are going to say. When we come to God in prayer, we are already letting our requests be made known to him. God sees and hears our hearts.
Strive to render your mind deaf and dumb at the time of prayer and then you will be able to pray. (Evagrius Ponticus)
Focus on God. Retreat to God's safe and comforting arms. Abide in his goodness. Let nothing else get in the way. Peace of Christ will slowly settle into our hearts. It will guard our hearts and minds. We may not understand it rationally, but we will experience its presence and power in our lives. It will brighten our outlook for today.
Guided Prayer Time
As the song goes, let us turn our eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim. In the light of his glory and grace.
Whatever worries, concerns and fears you may come to this place with, leave them in God's hands. God's goodness is greater than any of our fears and worries. Yes, we don't know what today will bring. But with peace that God gives, we can go into today with hope. Let the peace of Christ settle into your hearts and strengthen you as you begin today.