Rejoicing in the midst of distractions.

God, thank you for today. Thank you for your peace and for taking care of our worries when they overwhelm us. Thank you for your love and for your grace. Grace, oh yeah, I need to pick up her birthday card before Friday and get her gift card from Wal-Mart. Oh, sorry. God, you know our problems and our worries and the things that interrupt our lives. Lives….Lifeway, gotta get a map and pick up Valentine supplies for the nursing home on Sunday. Oh and chapstick, Dollar Tree didn’t have chapstick. Oh, yeah. Sorry. Father, I am so sorry for being so distracted. You tell us to not be anxious and to present our requests to you but sometimes it’s so hard. Hard candies, the nursing home will only accept hard candies, not chocolate, for the Valentine bags. Oh and the book report is due tomorrow so I’ll go by Wal-Mart, then to Lifeway and return the chocolates to Dollar Tree and then work, ugh and my presentation that’s due next Tuesday. Man, Sorry. God, give me strength for today. Please. You are so good to us. Give us an open heart to hear what you tell us and an open mind to understand it. Remind us, Lord, that you are in control. It’s in your son’s name. (Sigh) Amen.

I don’t know about you but my prayers are often interrupted by To-Do lists. Projects due, reading to catch up on, things to do for work and the family, events to plan for my church, fires to put out… not to mention, grocery shopping, mailing the bills, spending time with David and my boys. Basically my day is spent trying to keep my head on straight. And sometimes I remember to pray.

But that’s exactly what Paul instructs us to do here. To Pray. To just…tell God.

Philippians 4:4-7  is a memory verse that I committed to heart in college. With exams and extracurricular activities, at the time, I thought my plate was full but now, this verse takes on a whole new meaning.

I mean, Rejoice…in the same breath that Paul tells us not to worry, he wants us to Rejoice? Over what, okay, don’t get me wrong. I have so much to be thankful for. The Lord has blessed me with so many wonderful things and he has continually taken care of me but Rejoice? And he says it twice.  Not once…twice. Rejoice.

Let your gentleness be evident to all. That’s my favorite part. Have you ever seen someone who is worried? Are they gentle? I’m not. I’m usually frantic, either over-focused with the task at hand or spaced out because I’m thinking about something else. But I’m definitely not gentle.

The Lord is near. Psalm 145, verse 18 says “the Lord is near to all who call on him.” Paul wants us to pray. In every situation, he wants us to pray. Because the Lord is near and Scripture tells us that he will come when we call upon him.

Do not be anxious about anything. Maybe you’ve heard the famous passage from Matthew when Jesus tells us not to worry. If he clothes the lilies, surely he’ll clothe us.  And if he feeds the birds, surely, we’ll be fed. But the funny thing is that I’m usually not worried about clothes or food. I’m worried about that To-Do list. School Stuff. Church Stuff. Work Stuff. How to get from Monday to Sunday in one piece.

In every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. That’s a mouthful, right there.

In every situation. When your kid is crying, when you’re late paying your car note, when you’re up working on a paper. Tell God.  Tell him what you’re worried about.

Prayer and petition. Fancy words for “talking to God.” Formally requesting that He take away your worries or at least give you the strength to face them. Pray. Don’t forget to pray.

With thanksgiving. Again one of my favorites. Sometimes I feel odd praying about something that’s worrying me and to also thank God for it. Or I guess Paul could mean that we’re thanking him for the peace that he will give us in our future.

Finally, he says, Present your requests to God. Just tell him. Ask for what you need. Matthew 7:7-8 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Just tell him. Tell God what you need. That’s all he asks.

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

The peace of God that transcends all understanding. There are those times when after praying, you just feel better. Taking the time to close your eyes, centering yourself on the Lord, and asking that he take care of you. There’s a peace there.  It’s quiet. You can’t explain why but you just feel better. The problem is still at hand but you’re okay now. You can feel his presence and your heart becomes lighter. It’s his peace. Thank you God.

And that peace, that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. This is the most important part. He guards us. Like that peace that transcended your understanding. You can’t state why you feel lighter but you do. That’s the peace that guards you. Sure, you may have to pray again. Give it God over and over before the worry goes away but he’s there, guarding you. Guarding your heart.  He guards your mind, reminding you to tell him twice. And now that you’ve told him. Now that you’ve asked. He will give you peace. He is our rock and our fortress. Our shelter from the storm of worries.

Maybe your prayers are like mine and you feel distracted more often than not. But keep in mind that there’s grace in that. We’re not expected to be perfect. As long as we can rejoice through the distraction and bring our thoughts/needs/worries to God, he will point us back to where we need to go. Pray through the distraction. Rejoice.

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