“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
~Philippians 4:6-7 (Msg).
This, of course, is a splendid paraenetic passage on joy. This means Paul is high on inspired creative energy as he hits various targets within sentences; the verses in Philippians 4:4-7, unlike the rest of the letter, hold open many concepts—not the least of which are the call for unity in gentleness, for the “Lord is near” (verses 4-5), and approaches to joy in the midst of anxiety (verses 6-7).
What is Continuity of Prayer?
The continual referral to the Divine is what we’re after here. Pray or worry? It seems a no-brainer, but the truth is we hardly ever remember to pray when we’re stuck in a mess of heartily, burdensome thought in the mix of life.
Nonetheless, it’s there for us, available if we’ll only engage with God. We acknowledge here that God’s not the one putting up barriers before us to stop us from communicating.
God’s always speaking into our lives, and our needs are to speak with God not only in our direst moments, but always.
Prayer is wonderful in that it transforms us even as much as partake—we’re rewarded as we do it by the way God makes us feel closer to the Spirit. If we will draw close to God, God will always draw close to us (James 4:8).
The Peace Beyond That Which Our Minds Can Comprehend
This is Chrysostom’s analysis: that when we’ve diverted our mental and emotional challenges over into prayer—and then we’re delivered from our anxieties—this peace is beyond what the mind can actually grasp.
And, of course, this makes rapid sense to us who’ve engaged in this practice, and received those rewards, again and again. The Lord, here, has proven faithful, and in these ways, miraculously—for we have no explanation.
What was very soon ago tremulous for us—commanding the very centre of our concerned attention unto anxiety—now has had the mark of Jesus all over it, making our unease peripheral at best.
But the best thing is the joy we hold to know that through prayer we’ve yet again been delivered from the stress of our otherwise unfathomable difficulties.
© 2010 S. J. Wickham.
General Reference: Moisés Silva, Philippians – Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 1992, 2005), p. 191-96.