There was a five-year-old girl who regularly attended Sunday School with her grandmother, but
she had yet to attend a worship service nor knew much about prayer. One day while attending a
wedding with her grandmother, the minister said, “Let us pray.” Each person bowed his or her
head in prayer. When the little girl noticed everyone around her with their heads bowed and eyes
looking at the floor, she tapped her grandmother on the shoulder and whispered, “What are they
all looking for?”
What are you looking for when you pray? Is it an immediate answer? Comfort? Hope? Peace?
To simply give thanks? Often times we view prayer as a last resort saying, “Well, all we can do
now is pray.” Or wishful thinking like shooting a half-court shot, asking, “If you don’t mind, can
you throw up a prayer for me?” When we want to reclaim our Joy in a joy-robbing world, prayer
must be our first instinct, not our last resort!
Time Out #1:
- How is prayer perceived in the world?
- How is prayer perceived in your home?
- What impact does it have on our faith if prayer is our first reaction rather than our last
Today’s lesson might just be the most important one on our journey to RECLAIM joy and
REJOICE once again. It isn’t rocket science, but it also isn’t a walk in the park. This step in our
journey takes humility, honesty, and faith. Take a look at the acronym below to refresh your
mind on how we’ve gotten to this point in RECLAIMING joy!
R – Reflect on Reality
E – Examine the Past
J – Jail Negativity
O – Open Genuine Conversation
I – Initiate Prayer
Initiate Prayer (or Invocation)
An invocation is simply a prayer to God asking Him to act on one’s behalf. Read Philippians
4:4–7. This passage has served as a driving factor on our journey. Notice again verse six. Paul
says, “Do not be anxious about anything…” If you are anything like me, you have to take a
double-take when you read that phrase. We live in a world full of stressors and anxiety for all
ages. Thinking about not being worried or anxious almost causes anxiety to fall on my chest. I
feel like we should pause and write a collective letter to Paul informing him of the pressures,
stressors, and issues plaguing us in the 21 st century. Does he not know about the need to make
straight A’s, run a faster “forty,” play a double octave scale perfectly, pay the bills, meet the
quota at work, and put food on the table? Surely, Paul was out of his mind!
As much as we wish he was, Paul wasn’t out of his mind. He was spot on! If we want to
reclaim our joy, we must learn to not be anxious. However, it is a specific anxiety we must not
have. It is a physical anxiety focused on earthly stressors. Paul is simply reiterating a truth Jesus
taught on the Sermon on the Mount.
Read Matthew 6:25–34.
Time Out #2 A Reclaiming Joy Exercise:
- What are some things in your life that you stress about?
- How does this stress affect you? What do you do to cope with it?
- What similarities do you see between Philippians 4:6 and Matthew 6:25–34?
Eternal Anxiety vs. Physical Anxiety
On the other hand, scripture does tell us it is appropriate to have anxiety (or concern) about a few
things. Read 1 Corinthians 7:32–34; 12:25; 2 Corinthians 11:28; Philippians 2:20. What is the
difference between what we are told not to worry or be anxious about and those things we are
supposed to be? Eternity! Eternity is the difference! God does not want us to burden our souls by
constantly dwelling upon non-eternal things. Therefore, we must be humbly honest with
ourselves about why our joy has disappeared. Is it due to a physical stress, anxiety, or worry? Or
is it due to an eternal stress, anxiety, or worry? God can take care of both, but when dealing with physical
anxieties He simply ask you to trust Him to care of you (Matt 6:25–34; 1 Pet 5:7). With the
eternal anxieties, He asks you to partner with Him in this life and the life to come (Matt
Don’t worry, pray!
When we have lost our joy, feel it slipping away, or being drowned
by the worries of the world, God says pray! Read Philippians 4:6 again. Paul instructs that we are
to pray IN everything! In every season of life, we have a reason to come before God and pray,
especially in dark seasons. Paul takes it even further; he says we are to pray with “thanksgiving.”
Yes, this includes times of joy and times of trials (James 1:2–3).
Why is it important for us topray with thanksgiving when things don’t seem to be going our way? Prayer “realigns” us. Prayer with thanksgiving is like a daily wheel alignment in our spiritual life. Bumps in the road
and daily wear can make the axels of your car become slightly unaligned. Your car is now under
a lot of stress and will drift off course. It needs to be realigned or it can become very costly to
fix. The same is true on our spiritual journey. When life happens, it can quickly make us lose our
focus, be under a great deal of stress, and begin to drift. When we pray, thanking God for the
good and provisions He has poured out on us, it realigns our heart, soul, faith, and trust. So how
are you doing? How do you need to pray today? What do you need to release into God’s hands?
He is ready!
- What are some good things you are concerned about?
- How has God blessed you and your family? Can you make a list to pray thanking God for these things together?
- How does thanksgiving realign our “spiritual” wheels in order to keep moving
forward towards God in life?