Summary: Paul demonstrated the power of a thankful heart to overcome enormous negative circumstances. Prayer is not the dark garment of despair. Prayer is a bright garment of praise that will dress up the soul even on the dreariest of days.
My earliest childhood memories of being in church are of the
rope that I could ride. The thick rope hung down through the
ceiling in the church entry way. I was so little that when the rope
was pulled to ring the bell in the belfry, I could hang on to it and get
a ride as it would pull me up off the floor, and then set me down
again. It is a pleasant memory in my mind, and my earliest thoughts
of being in church are memories of church being a fun place to be.
This memory was brought back to my mind when I read this
statement by Christmas Evans, the great Welsh preacher. He said,
"Prayer is the rope up in the belfry; we pull it and it rings the bell
up in heaven."
For the first time in my life this image linked prayer and fun. I
had never given it a thought that prayer and fun could be
compatible partners. After all, prayer is a solemn and serious
business, and that is why we tell children to be quiet, and stop
having fun and clowning around. Bow you head and close your eyes
and knock off anything you are doing that could be construed as
having fun. From this childhood lesson we move on to a life time of
having it drilled into our brain that prayer is anything but fun. It is
a chore; it is a challenge; it is such a burdensome labor that it is one
of the hardest aspects of the Christian life to develop.
C. S. Lewis, one of the greatest Christians of the 20th century,
describes the feelings of millions of Christians when it comes to
"...Prayer is irksome. And excuse to omit it
is never unwelcome. When it is over, this
casts a feeling of relief and holiday over the
rest of the day. We are reluctant to begin.
We are delighted to finish. While we are at
prayer but not while we are reading a novel
or solving a cross-word puzzle, any trifle is enough to distract us....
The odd thing is that this reluctance to
pray is not confined to periods of dryness.
When yesterday's prayers are full of comfort
and exaltation, today's will still be felt as, in
some degree, a burden."
We could quote many others who feel the same, and all the
evidence indicates the majority of Christians feel that prayer is a
hard part of the Christian life. Seldom to never does anyone relate
prayer and fun. I must confess I certainly never did until this past
week when I saw, for the first time, that for Paul prayer was fun. It
was a time to be joyful, and a time of happy memories, and
thanksgiving to God for His abundant goodness and grace.
Let me show you what has been before my eyes for years, but
which I never saw until the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see. Now
I want to be the instrument to illumine you on what is clearly
revealed in God's Word, but is also hidden because Satan does not
want God's people to discover that prayer can be fun. Look at the
facts. Paul says in verse 4, "I always pray with joy." Then in
chapter 4 Paul goes all out to make it clear that prayer is to be
surrounded with positive joyful feelings, and the negative feelings of
life are to be eliminated. Listen to 4:4-7, "Rejoice in the Lord
always, I will say it again, rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to
all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in
everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your
requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all
understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ
Paul is clearly revealing a life of prayer full of joy and
thanksgiving. Eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive.
Prayer is to be a fun and enjoyable time, and not a time we dread as
a duty we have to be dragged into. Paul lived the way he wrote for
others to live, and he demonstrated these words in his own life.
When he was in the prison there is Philippi, having been attacked,
beaten, flogged, and locked in stocks in a cell, we read this of Paul's
attitude in Acts 16:25, "About midnight Paul and Silas were praying
and singing hymns to God..."
It was one of the most miserable days of his life, yet Paul is
enjoying his prayer time, and he is singing hymns to God. In the
midst of pain he is finding pleasure in prayer. He is singing songs of
thanksgiving, and rejoicing in the Lord with the peace that passes