In second grade I got into trouble. It’s hard to remember exactly what for. I think I was talking too much and didn’t get my work done. My teacher said I had to stay in during lunch break to do the work. For some reason that I can’t remember, mom had given me lunch money that day, not a sack lunch. This was a first for me. The teacher almost didn’t let me leave the classroom. After some back and forth, she told me to go get the school lunch and bring it directly to the class. Somehow, as soon as I left the classroom, I forgot about being in trouble. I bought the lunch, sat and ate it at the school’s lunch tables, and then went and played on the playground until the bell rang. I didn’t remember anything about the work I was supposed to do until the moment I saw my teacher’s glare as I approached the classroom. At that moment, it didn’t really matter that I wasn’t willfully avoiding my punishment, I made my situation worse by forgetting specific and important instructions.

Adults do the same thing. As a pastor, I regularly have conversations with people who are dealing with difficult things. One of the verses I like to bring them to is Phil 4:6-8. Some of these people have a Christian background or some biblical knowledge. I ask if they can remember the passage and say it out loud to me. Inevitably, it goes something like this: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition present your requests to God, and the peace of God, that transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” This is pretty close to getting all the words right in most translations. The problem is that people forget a specific and important part of the instructions. I hope you noticed that it was missing. It is the phrase, “with thanksgiving.”

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, 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 Jesus. Phil 4:6-7

These instructions read like a recipe for peace. A promise of God’s peace. A peace that is bigger than the situation they find themselves in. That is why it transcends all understanding. It doesn’t make sense. Your heart (emotions) and your mind (thoughts) are guarded by peace in and through your connection with Jesus. This is beautiful, but it won’t happen in prayers without thanks. At the very least, at the absolute minimum you’ve got God with you and Jesus has proved his love in death and power over it. God’s peace is available and real; just don’t forget to give thanks.

John Riley

Subscribe to the Daily Fill