I would say that if you were going to memorise any passage of scripture that the reading we have today would be a great place to start:
Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:4-7 NIV)
Continuing our theme of peace it’s interesting to note where in this exhortation from Paul that the reference to peace comes – at the end. The order at first strikes me as odd, Paul says the first thing you should do is rejoice, then not to be anxious, then pray and only THEN does the peace of God guard our hearts. This is the strange paradox of our walk with God. He has all these abundant riches that He offers us freely, but it’s easier said than done to receive them.Usually when we’re stressed and anxious we don’t feel like rejoicing! My colleague was telling me that an NLP technique when angry is to put a pen sideways between your teeth and this forces you to smile and calms you down. That sounds very silly to me and in some ways sounds as bizarre as Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice in the Lord always”. However, if you look at the pattern of many of the great prayers of the Bible you will see that they nearly all start with focusing on God’s character and on what He has done. This is the first step in prayer – instead of focusing on your mountain, focus on the One who can move it (Bill Hybels – Too busy not to pray). After you have done this, the next step is by prayer and thanksgiving (don’t forget the thanksgiving bit), present your requests to God. As you pray, recall answers to prayer you’ve had in the past and thank God for them, this will help increase your faith that He will answer. Once you have let go of your problems and needs and presented them to God, that is when His peace can rest on you.
His peace cannot guard your heart and mind if you’re still clinging on to dwelling on your problem. When we do that it is like the old idea of the monkey trap. Something delicious is placed in the bottom of a jar, the monkey puts his hand into the jar to get the item but cannot pull his hand back out of the jar without letting go of the item. The monkey’s hand is stuck in the jar, clinging on to the item. I know I do this a lot, I can sometimes almost wallow in my problems rather than ‘by prayer and petition present my requests to God’.
Pray that you won’t be like the monkey, pray for the strength to present your requests to God and I pray that the peace of God that transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.