My little green prayer notebook wears a sticky syrup spot and bent cover to prove its usefulness over the last couple months. It’s not just my notebook, but my optimism for our beautiful country feels a bit worn also.
Like many of us, I’m unable to find any peace in the news or in the top leadership. A scan of cultural forecasts doesn’t bring a stillness of heart either. I’ve personally taken a break from intentionally following current events, and it’s refreshing. But there are other ways bad news slithers in. All of us have layers of personal burdens. We never lack reminders that our world groans, and we’re not home yet.
God has been showing me two areas where I’ve needed to cultivate my prayers to incorporate a new heart attitude.
Thanks for The Personal
First, it hit me when I was reciting Philippians 4 on repeat because I was trying to rid myself of anxiety about a family member’s unknown diagnosis.
“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.”
I lay awake one night, praying hard, making my requests known to God. Then I’d try to think about something pure and lovely to trap my mind into drifting to sleep. Finally dozing, the baby would wake me up, and the whole battle began at step one! The throbbing worry would edge away the peace. What was I missing in my determination to jump to the peace that surpasses and guards part of the promise (which would surely grant me the rest I needed)?
I kept neglecting to add thanksgiving to my supplication as Paul included in his instruction.
You can see this in his letter to Timothy, too — this attitude of gratefulness without complaining or fear.
“I thank God, whom I serve with a clear conscience the way my forefathers did, as I constantly remember you in my prayers night and day.”
2 Timothy 1:3
Even Paul stood the late hours praying (and thanking!) the Lord.
Can it be said of me that I enter the courts with thanksgiving, even when it’s past my bedtime, and I’d rather be dreaming? Is my habit to recognize God’s riches at Christ’s expense — even in difficult waiting times? Anxiety does not have the same hold when I’m focusing on all the personal grace God has given me, including the peace He makes accessible.
My friend Lisa recently wrote something similar in her article as she was pondering this same topic of peace:
“To acknowledge His goodness in even unknowns, call for the promise of God’s peace which surpasses all comprehension. It’s what guarded my heart and mind. Praise God for the means to praise and thank Him even in troubling times…When I came to understand God to be the God of compassion and comfort, when I realized I approached him without a willingness to be consoled, and when I saw my error of withholding gratitude as I presented my concerns—that’s when I began to see my anxiety melt away.”
There are always, always traces of God’s lovingkindness even in our worst nightmares. Can we find the grace in the present moments and the past? Even if you have to squint to see, God’s mercies truly are new and clear.
Thanks for The President
Now, secondly, I found myself fretting about my country and the world at large, unprepared to apply this prayerful thankfulness to a havoc of headlines marching closer and closer to home. But there it was, catching me off-guard in I Timothy 2:2-4.
“First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
Thanksgiving on behalf of all men, all administrations? This counter-intuitive practice of giving thanks even for leaders who call evil good and good evil compels me to acknowledge and thank God for His sovereignty. It’s the only way giving thanks in this context makes sense. He’s never surprised, and His care for His people weaves through all of ongoing history, including current events.
Without a thankful heart, we can’t live a quiet, tranquil, godly life. We’d be too busy fretting about evildoers to commit our way to Him.
I’m working on praying without fretting, without wrath, and dissension (I Tim 2:8). Committing all things to the Lord in awareness of His power and provision. Trying to not just add thanksgiving as a flourished postscript, an afterthought, to my prayers, but to build a heart of humility and thanksgiving as I talk to my Hope.
It’s awkward at first. “Frustrate the plans of the wicked, Lord. Oh yeah, and Lord, thank you for our leaders.” But I can see how slowly a mind shift unfolds, one that results in deeper trust in the One who does all things well. Just by the simple act of saying “thank you,” I’m growing more grateful that He intentionally gives us our leaders and desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. It’s good and acceptable to both petition and thank God for all who are in authority, fully remembering He placed them there with purpose.
Let us devote ourselves to making supplications with thanksgiving (Col. 4:2). Prayer is better than worrying. Worn knees and worn prayer notebooks are better than self sufficiency. Peace is better than optimism and good circumstances. Learning to trust God in the dark hours is better than blissful sleep. Steadfastness of mind is better than quickly forgetting. Knowing who He is will allow us to obey and give thanks, and He promises to guard us with perfect peace.
“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, Because he trusts in You.”
Photo by Andres Herrera