Request and Release
We have a hard time staying happy. This week, I am sharing insight from Philippians 4:4-7 on how to stay happy all day. Here are the treasures of the text thus far.
- Rejoice and Repeat - "Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I will say, rejoice." Repeated rejoicing deals with our negativity bias. We are wired to take more notice of negativity. Rejoicing in the Lord creates a mindset in which we seek God as our ultimate source of joy. In Him, joy is always available.
- Reasons Govern our Reactions - "Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand." We are stressed, worried, and angry. How refreshing is it to see the unusual reaction of gentleness in our culture? You have great reasons to be happy. First and foremost, the Lord is at hand. Let that reason govern your reaction.
- Reject Anxiety - "Do not be anxious about anything." You may have anxiety, but you don't have to obey it. Create realistic expectations. One cause of anxiety is misplaced joy.
All of this is helpful, but is there anything practical we can apply to a truly bad day? God provides for my happiness, but what is His plan to change the situation? The final two principles from the passage are practical applications for dealing with a bad day; request and release.
#4 - Request
"Let your reasonableness be made known to everyone." Got it. In Christ, I have great reasons for more gentle reactions. Though my reactions are to be reasonably gentle, people are not. The chances of the "angry, stressed, worried" people I mentioned in Tuesday's post praising me for a Christ-like reaction - ZERO!
Let's be honest. My reaction may be gentle, but apart from Christ, what I'm thinking in my mind is not reasonable. Well, at least it's not Biblical. I have some things I'd like to say to the aforementioned "angry, stressed, worried" person. I have some things I'd like to do that do not fall into the "gentle" category in certain situations. But I read the Bible and Brian's blog . . . (insert aggravated, angry, brain exploding emoji here). I need to be gentle, but I don't want to be gentle because people are not reasonable! So what about them? How will God fix this and them?
I often say, "If you clam up, you blow up." So who do I tell? Who can I tell how "non-gentle" this person or situation makes me feel? Who can I express my (or their) "unreasonableness" to? What gives? What changes? What fixes "this?"
Notice a beautiful exchange in the passage. You let your reasonableness/gentleness be made known to everyone, but you, "Let your requests be made known to God."
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, 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 understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Phillipians 4:4-7
Pray About It, or Not
Notice that passage doesn't just say, "Pray about it." That lady at church tells you to "pray about it." Your pastor tells you to "pray about it." You told someone, "I'll pray for you." But Paul doesn't just say "pray about it," he says, "In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God."
So imagine sitting next to Paul in Sunday School this week. "Hey Paul, I need you to pray about something." And Paul replies, "With prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, I'll let your requests be made known to God."
Sure it's a little over the top for common, everyday language. Paul is not trying to wax Shakespearean, nor is he trying to overcomplicate prayer. Paul's choice of words gives us great insight as to what prayer really is.
What is Prayer?
Prayer is communicating with God. It is the most general word used to describe the act of what we are about to do. It's like saying, "I'm having surgery." Surgery? In surgery, there's a big difference in having a mole removed and a triple bypass. I need some specifics.
Supplication. Supplication is a word that has varying degrees of meaning. It can mean simply "to ask" but it can become as intense as "to beg." Supplication is one kind of praying. For instance, the Bible also mentions intercession (1 Tim. 2:1). Intercession is praying for someone. Supplication is praying about something.
But he says to do it with thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is a word that is closely related to the word translated rejoice. It means that I am going to express gratitude. My day may be bad, but in prayer, my heart is glad - that God listens, He answers prayer, that I can bring this to Him. I am glad of what only He can do when everything else is so bad.
Finally, he mentions requests. Requests are the specifics. In its essence, prayer is asking. James 4:2-3 says that "you have not because you ask not." I think one of the chief reasons we do not celebrate answered prayer is because we pray for nothing specific. We pray for a good day. OK. How do you measure that? "Today, I survived. That's good enough. Thank you God!" I hear people often pray, "Lord, bless us." Have you ever heard someone order food at Chick-Fil-A by saying, "Feed me. Just feed me. And may the feed be good." That is probably the one time at Chick-Fil-A that the person behind the counter doesn't say, "My pleasure." They'll probably say, "Are you OK?"
The problem with an order like that is it lacks any specific request. If you go to Chick-Fil-A you don't say, "Feed me." You say, "I'd like a #1 with no pickles and a half and half tea." Both God and Chick-Fil-A need specifics. What is your request.
So let's break it down like this.
- Prayer is action, the general act of connecting and communicating with God.
- Supplication is my passion in prayer. I am begging God.
- Thanksgiving is my disposition in prayer. I have an attitude of gratitude.
- Requests are my organization in prayer. These are the specific, measurable things I am asking God for or to do.
How Prayer Moves in Me
Personally, sometimes, my times of prayer (especially on a bad day) move from frustration to desperation to anticipation. I like to pray through Psalms. The Psalms often mention God as "my shield." Recently I was really being attacked, and my prayer started in frustration. "God, your Word says you are my shield, but I don't see it. Will you be my shield? I need you as my shield. If you are not my shield . . ." Praying in frustration is not great faith or great theology, but we have a great God. He listens. I then moved into desperation. "God, please be my shield." And then it moved into anticipation/thanksgiving. "God, I thank you that you are my shield. I know that your promises are true and that you are faithful. God, I know that you are surrounding me . . ." You see this movement often in the Psalms as well. A Psalm will start in great darkness but end with an incredible affirmation of who God is. For instance, check out Psalm 42.
#5 - Release
The fifth way to stay happy all day from Philippians 4:4-7 is much like Elsa sings in Frozen, let it go!
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.Philippians 4:7
The translators of the English Bible also translate the word "guard" as "garrison." The peace of God becomes like a garrison of soldiers surrounding the most critical elements of your being. The peace of God surrounds your heart (the way you feel) and your mind (the way you think).
So explain this Mr. Christian, Pastor/Blogger.
It is the peace of God that surpasses all understanding. The Bible doesn't even explain it. It simply says it exists.
The situation doesn't warrant peace, but there is peace. There is no one in the situation that brings peace, but God brings peace. If it surpasses all understanding, there is no practical way to explain it, trigger it, or describe it. But God's people experience it. And they can tell you, it just is.
So you do what the Bible says. You are gentle to people and then you tell God what you would have done to them if it had not been for Him (amongst other things). Does that change the situation? It might. But most often, God changes you in the situation before he begins to change the situation. God may not fix a person as quickly as you want them fixed. But He can bring you peace - immediately.
So How Do I Stay Happy All Day?
Ultimately the greatest way to stay happy all day is not to rest your happiness on people or situations. People cannot deliver God's peace. Every day will not be good. Nor will every person. But every day can be a good day if we rejoice and repeat. If you govern your reactions with Biblical reasons, today will be different. Today may make me anxious, but I will reject anxiety and will not allow it to make decisions for me. I will react to you with gentleness. I will make my requests to God. Today is not going to be like yesterday. I am not the same.
There will be something different about this day as I release it to the Lord and He gives me only what He can give me. He gives me the peace of God the surpasses all understanding. His peace garrisons my heart and my mind in Christ Jesus.
Read 1 Timothy 2:1-7.
- List the commands that are to be obeyed (some commands may be mentioned, some may be implied).
- List the promises to be believed (mentioned or implied).
- List the principles to be applied.
You may have to bite your tongue with someone today so you can demonstrate a reasonable, gentle reaction. But pray for them. You may have to "keep it together" today under stress for the sake of demonstrating a reasonable, gentle reaction. But pray for this. Write a prayer for someone or something today that has measurable, specific requests. Keep that prayer with you for 30 days and track how God answers that prayer.