[At the end of this week’s email, I’ve written an exciting update on the survey we sent out to you last week.]
Praying scripture in a personal way in my journal has long been a fruitful and life-giving practice for me. Recently, I gave myself to praying the first dozen or so verses of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Here’s what that looked like in my personal journal:
1Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus,
To all God’s holy people in Christ Jesus at Philippi, together with the overseers and deacons:
2Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
3I thank my God every time I remember you. 4In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Pray Always and For Everyone
Whatever my roles and titles might be, most important to me is that I am a servant of Christ Jesus (of the Messiah). I am a valued member of God’s holy family in Christ here in Mission Viejo, California. I have served as a pastor for decades, was ordained as an Anglican deacon a year ago, and was just ordained an Anglican priest last month. What a gift and an honor! I am blessed to receive, together with all of God’s people, grace and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the air my soul breathes.
Like Paul here, I give thanks now for all the people God has placed in my life. Gratitude is the atmosphere of the kingdom. Gratitude is exhaling the grace I inhale. Enable me to breathe this generosity today, Father. Show me how to receive and enjoy everything good You provide so that I might be a blessing to others throughout this day.
I want to live through this whole day prayerfully (and not only begin my day that way). I easily get stuck in my own stale thoughts. Living prayerfully today would enable me to enjoy freshness of mind and heart today. And this prayer is not just a task I accomplish or a project I take on. Prayer is a Person with whom I am in loving, trusting conversation.
I love this: “In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy.” I pray with joy because I’m speaking with One Who is utterly full of joy. As Dallas Willard often said, God is the most joyous being in the universe. Sadly, I have sometimes prayed with boredom. This happens when I forget what I’m doing and with whom I am speaking.
The partnership I enjoy with other sons and daughters of God inspires me to pray this joyfully. I am living this day and doing my work in community. What a gift!
Grow in me Paul’s confidence. Grant me courage, hope and resolve that all that I am doing as I intend to cooperate with your kingdom work today is a response to Your good work in and through me. It is a work that You have not and will not give up on. There will come a day when I will be with you face to face and this good work will actually have been completed.
7It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart and, whether I am in chains or defending and confirming the gospel, all of you share in God’s grace with me. 8God can testify how I long for all of you with the affection of Christ Jesus.
Having People on Our Hearts
Paul feels confident in the partnership of these brothers and sisters in Christ at Philippi. But I can’t help but stop at that first phrase: “It is right for me feel.” I didn’t grow up feeling that it was right to feel. Feelings weren’t affirmed or very welcome, whether happy, sad or mad.
But it really is rightfor me to feel love, joy, peace. It is right for me to feel warmhearted courage and holy pride. It is right for me to grieve or to express anger before God. It is It is right and safe for me to express these feelings. I can express these feelings in what I say and write. It is right!
Having people in my heart is what provokes these feelings. I have often sought to avoid such connections out of fear, but that is notright. It isn’t good for me or anyone else. The walls of childish self-protection can become barriers to adult relationships.
I share in God’s grace with a community of Your followers, Jesus. Together we enjoy grace. Together we proclaim grace. There is too much of it to keep to ourselves. We’ll be overwhelmed by it if we do not share.
Father, grow in me an awareness of the reality of my deep longing for Your people that grows out of the very affection of Christ Jesus himself. Enable me to feel the affection of Christ for myself and for others. Awaken me today to how many different ways I am a beneficiary of grace. Amen!
9And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, 10so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, 11filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.
What If My Prayer Was Answered?
As a young Christian, I worked on memorizing the book of Philippians. The length of time it took to recite it was about the length of my drive to church. And I made that drive many times a week. This prayer was one of my most favorite passages. I remember that it made a deep impression on me at the time.
I often imagined: What would a church look like if this prayer was deeply answered and realized among them?
They would be a people who were growing to know and see into the kingdom of God so deeply that they embodied the spirit of love that is its atmosphere. Having this kind of insight into the reality of God’s ways and God’s home, they would have eyes to see what mattered the most.
They would be singlehearted and focused on such things. Their hearts and minds would be captured by Christ. The fruit of this focus would be a rightness about them that was rooted in love and not self-righteousness. Their lives would ring with the sound of God’s glory, and shine with the inviting light of God’s presence.
Father, may you answer this prayer in us today. Amen.
About Last Week’s Survey
Gem and I are so grateful for all of your feedback on the survey we sent out last week. It was centered, as you’ll remember, around the question: “In a hurried and busy world, what is the greatest challenge you face developing spiritual health and growth?” We received hundreds of responses that spanned over 50 full pages of insights from you.
We have been digesting all of your feedback and look forward to being able to offer even more targeted resources on all our various platforms based on your creative and honest responses.
And we hope you enjoyed the audio download!
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