This article is an excerpt from Thrive: Living in Real Joy, a six-week study in Bible Studies for Life for Winter 2016–17. Learn more about this curriculum and preview one month for free at biblestudiesforlife.com.
Praying with Joy
The Point: Prayer is an opportunity to experience joy.
The Bible Meets Life: What will bring you deep joy and happiness?
Everyone is seeking it. The quest for happiness is built into the fabric of the United States, where we value “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as “inalienable rights.”
A few years back, Pharrell Williams made a song called “Happy” a global sensation. But I wonder if the people singing it remained happy after the music faded. Might a more fitting song perhaps be U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For?”
- Prosperous King Solomon, who had an abundance of wealth, women, and wine, confessed “Absolute futility. Everything is futile” (Eccl. 1:2).
- Alexander the Great is reported to have wept in his tent saying, “There are no more worlds to conquer.”
- Tom Brady, after three NFL championships, remarked, “There’s got to be more than this.”
What do you need to have full and lasting joy?
If you’re interested in finding the answer to this question, welcome to the Book of Philippians! This is a letter full of joy—written by a man while in prison. From Paul we discover how we, too, can experience abundant joy.
Paul began his Letter to the Philippians—his beloved partners in the gospel—with expressions of thanksgiving, joy, and affection. Joy runs throughout his letter, and the first time he used the term, he spoke of “praying with joy.”
Since it is such an important concept in Philippians, let’s ponder “joy” for a moment. Joy goes deeper than happiness. Our happiness is typically based on external things; it’s tied to our circumstances. Joy remains with us regardless of what we have or are experiencing. We can be having a bad day, but still have joy.
We find joy in knowing Christ deeply. This may sound cheesy or elementary, but the secret to joy is in keeping things in this order:
Paul exemplified a life of joy. He rejoiced in Christ despite hardship (Rom. 5:3-5); and he lived to serve others before thinking about himself (Phil. 2:3-4). Paul was all about Jesus, and his mind was filled with concern for others. At the core of Paul’s joy was a deep love for the Savior that spilled out into love for people. Christian joy is Christ-centered and others-oriented.
We don’t find Paul giving God thanks for things; Paul gave thanks for people. Paul could see evidence of God’s grace in others and praised God for His work in them. Paul was filled with joy over what God had done for the Philippians.
Paul expressed gratitude for the believers in Philippi whom he considered his partners in the gospel. This church had supported Paul and served as co-workers in the mission from the beginning of his time in Philippi. They were friends—united in Jesus—on mission together.
In verse 6, Paul gave another reason for his gratitude to God: confidence in God’s nature and purposes. He was sure that God would continue—and complete!—the work He had started in the Philippian believers. He based this upon his knowledge of God—God’s saving grace—and his awareness of the Philippians’ faith. God always will finish what He starts in the lives of His people.
We may leave a lot of tasks unfinished, but God finishes what He starts. God graciously inaugurated this work in us. God then graciously continues this work in us. And God will graciously complete this work in us “until the day of Christ Jesus.” That’s cause for grateful joy!
Excerpted from Tony Merida, Bible Studies for Life: Thrive: Living in Real Joy © 2016 Lifeway Press®. Used by permission.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission.