“Be anxious for nothing, 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 comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” — Philippians 4:6,7  

The Apostle Paul wrote his letter to the church in Philippi as an ode to joy while he was imprisoned.  In the passage quoted above, he gives us a method for rejoicing in the midst of suffering.  How can someone do this?  It requires the gift of an ability to see beyond immediate sorrow to ultimate joy.  It requires the gift of trust in a God who has delivered and sustained His people for millennia, hope (confident expectation) in a God who is faithful to His promise of life with Him and love for a God who has loved His people by giving His own Son to save them from their sins and death and into His righteousness and life.  As with all gifts, we must ask which is what prayer is.

Basically, Paul says to do what our parents taught us (to say say please and thank you) with the promise that this is a means of escape from anxiety and entrance into peace.  This also provides an outline for a profitable exercise: tell God what you want (prayer) and, with every request, return thanks for the many related things He has already given you.  

Here are some examples:

With the pandemic, we pray that things will open up soon so that we can once again enjoy full interaction with our families and in our communities.  With this, we can give thanks that things are shut down for a season, because we have more time to enjoy our immediate family and to read and reflect.  Give thanks for the freedom to stay home because the time will soon come when you will not have this freedom.  Give thanks for the courageous medical and residential care personnel who have persevered through repeated spikes of coronavirus cases and the deep grief of seeing patients die without family close at hand.  Give thanks for the amazingly quick development of a highly effective and safe vaccine.  Pray for its rapid and wide distribution and that its benefits will be long lasting

For those dealing with sickness, we pray for quick, full and affordable healing.  And then we give thanks for the measure of health we enjoy and the incredible medical personnel and technology that are devoted to save our lives and to restore and maintain our health.  Give thanks that God has brought many gifted, skillful and faithful immigrants to our area who provide medical care for us.

For those who have suffered the death of a loved one, we pray for comfort in our grief.  And then we give thanks for the many blessings we enjoyed from and with the people we now miss.  We also give thanks for many loved ones who are still with us and pray that we will cherish them all the more.

For our civil government, we pray for constructive and cooperative relationships between individuals, branches, levels and agencies of government and among the citizenry as well.  We give thanks that, in spite of many significant problems, we continue to enjoy protections, provisions and freedoms that are unprecedented in the history of the world.

For businesses and the economy, we pray that enterprises large and small will persevere through restrictions and will recover quickly and fully.  We then also give thanks for technology that enables many to work from home even though it sometimes feels more like living at work.  Likewise with schools, we pray that teachers, students and parents will overcome the difficult challenges of remote learning and that in-person classes will resume soon.  We then also give thanks for the extra effort given by many and for the opportunity to work and grow together more closely as families.

For the church, we pray that we will never again take open churches for granted and that we will resolve to renew our commitment to and participation in a good, local church.  We pray for the restoration of sanctuaries crowded for public worship with vigorous singing in praise to God, devoted care for fellow members and, with them, service to our neighborhoods and community.  We give thanks for the churches we grew up in and for the pastors and other adults who worked hard for our spiritual formation and maturity.  We give thanks for the positive impact of local churches on our lives, marriages, families, neighborhoods and communities.

Turn your anxieties and complaints into prayers and then take occasion in your prayers to give thanks for the many things God has already given you in connection with what you are asking for.  Worry about nothing by praying about everything and giving thanks for your many blessings.  In this, you worship God and enjoy His favor, blessing and peace.

Ask Jesus to forgive your sins and to give you His righteousness so that your prayers will be heard and your thanksgivings accepted in the kindness, wisdom and goodness of the Father.  

Ask the Holy Spirit to help you pray and, on your behalf, to communicate even those things that you are unable to put into words.  In Christ and by the Spirit, our Father in heaven hears and answers the prayers of His people, accepts our thanksgiving and praise, relieves us of worry and gives us His own peace.

Give thanks, with much prayer, for 2020.

Kit Swartz served the Reformed Presbyterian Church (RPC) in Oswego as Pastor-Teacher for almost forty years. Requests for prayer and your questions about Christian faith and life are welcome at kitswartz@gmail.com or (315) 343-0581. The Oswego RPC welcome all to their congregation for worship at 10  a.m. Sunday mornings, 154 City Line Road, Oswego for services led by Pastor-Teacher Gabriel Wingfield.  Pandemic hygiene is practiced and required.  

See oswegorpc.org or Google “rpcna1” for streaming worship services and other resources.

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