The Philippians Path of Peace
March 1, 2010 | My Jottings
Happy March 1st! That also means Rabbit!! to those of you who are in my family or were in Mrs. Lokken’s second grade class with me at Workman Avenue Elementary School in Southern California.
Michael actually woke me up this morning a little after 4:00 a.m. and whispered urgently in my ear, “Julie? Julie?” and when I woke up startled, and said, “What?” he said “Rabbit!” I could hear the mixture of glee and grogginess in his voice. I was a good sport about it and said, “You got me.”
Anyway, a little while back I posted something about worrying vs. praying, and if you missed it you can see it, and everyone’s great comments, right here.
So today begins an experiment in faith and trust, to all those who read this and would like to grow in those areas. If you would like to take part in The Philippians Path of Peace for the month of March, get your hands on a container of sorts today. I have chosen a large shoebox that I will tape shut. I’ll cut a narrow slot in the lid. If you’re a crafty and creative person (Jessica!), you could make your container into something really attractive. But the important thing is to just get something today, and get started. You could use a basket with a lid, a large jar, a cylindrical oatmeal container, a big manila envelope or an old backpack. Use an item that is secure for your environment, though — this container should be something that can stay private, yet accessible to you all throughout the day. Consider where you might place it so that it’s not in the way of anything, but is where you’ll be able to get to it as much as is needed. I will put mine in my office.
Don’t hesitate to tell your family members what your container is all about and that you’re joining with others in a faith experiment for the month of March, but make sure they know to respect your privacy and leave it alone for you and God.
Here are the verses from the fourth chapter of Philippians on which we’re basing our month-long exercise:
4Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! 5Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 6Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.
And the paraphrase from The Message is good:
4-5Celebrate God all day, every day. I mean, revel in him! Make it as clear as you can to all you meet that you’re on their side, working with them and not against them. Help them see that the Master is about to arrive. He could show up any minute!
6-7Don’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.
8-9Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse.
You also need to get several sheets of blank paper and cut them into smaller pieces that are just large enough to write a concern on, but small enough to fold up small and put into your oatmeal container or basket or shoebox. Have these pieces of paper and a pencil near your container at all times.
I googled the phrase Prayer Box and saw, as I expected, that this is not a new idea. Apparently several authors have written about this before and it has been a practice for many people for years. I haven’t personally done this before and had never read about it, so it’s a new experiment for me.
I’m also aware that there are probably a multitude of believers who already pray instead of worry. Even I, myself, sometimes pray about things instead of worrying about them. If you are adept at prayer and already have your feet planted firmly on the Philippians Path of Peace, then you can forgo this experiment and pray for those of us who are embarking. But the reason we’re doing this is to learn to pray each time a potential worry presents itself to us. During the month of March, we’re aiming to begin a new, lifelong habit of doing what Paul counseled almost two thousand years ago. We want to pray and leave our cares with our loving God, and not worry.
A couple of thoughts before I reiterate the steps we’ll take, and why we’re doing this. For those of you who are reading this and you don’t even believe in God, that’s okay. This experiment could be something you don’t think will have any effect on you at all, but you’re willing to try it at any rate, just to see what happens. I encourage you to write down your concerns and requests anyway, maybe something like this: “Dear God. I don’t really believe you are there. But in case you are, here’s what is on my heart today. Please do something about ________. As best as I am able, I’m handing this over to you, if you are there and can do anything about this. Thank you.”
Also, if you know anyone you think might like to join us in this March journey, please refer them to this blog post. I’m going to be emailing a few friends to see if they’d like to come along too.
Each week in March I’ll put up a post about walking the Philippians Path of Peace and ask for your comments. Please share how it’s going. Even if it’s not going as you expected, please tell us your experiences. At the end of the month we’ll see what praying instead of worrying has accomplished in our lives.
Be patient with yourself. If any of you are prone to worrying, you probably won’t jump from fretting to freedom in one day. You might write two requests on slips of paper and put them in your Prayer Box the first day, and find yourself in worry mode sixty times. Keep going. Ask for divine help to begin to pray instead of worry. Don’t give up.
You might want to take a few small scraps of paper with you when you go somewhere – put them in your wallet or in a pocket in your purse, and when something comes up that would invite you in to that useless, destructive place of worrying, pull out your scrap, write down your prayer, and put it in your Prayer Box when you get home. Do what works for you and constantly ask for help in this. I believe with all my heart that Jesus will help us. He’s the One who kept saying, “Don’t be afraid. Come to Me and I will give you rest.” We are going to take Him at His word.
So here are the basics.
1. Get your container and scraps of paper ready today. If you’re reading this after March 1st, start on the day you read. Even if it’s March 15th, get started.
2. Read the passage from Philippians above or in your own Bible to remind yourself why you’re doing this. You might even want to put those verses on your Prayer Box in some way. Seriously ponder what we’re promised if we will do this: the peace of God, and His protection for our hearts and minds. Are there any of us who don’t need the peace of God, who don’t want His protection for our hearts and our minds? I desperately need and want all three.
3. When a need, a concern, a worry, a burden comes to you, briefly write down on the scrap of paper what you are asking God to do. Tell Him about it in print. Yes, sometimes we don’t know how to pray — we don’t know what would be best or we know our own motives are skewed. Write something down anyway, like, “God – help! Please touch my brother. Thank you.” Or, “Lord, help me not to ______! Thank you.” God is big enough to sort out our stuff. We have been invited to bring our stuff to Him, not to figure it all out before we bring it. The purpose of this exercise is for us to immediately bring what’s concerning us to the Maker of heaven and earth, and leave it with Him to work His awesome ways in us and in those around us.
4. Say thank you. If you look at the Philippians Path of Peace, we are to bring our prayers and petitions to Him, with thanksgiving. I think this is really important. With whatever tiny bit of faith we can muster, we present our requests to Him, and we thank Him ahead of time for what He’s going to do. When we say thank you, we take ourselves out of an attitude of complaint or ingratitude and put ourselves into the attitude of thankfulness. I really need to remember this one.
5. Keep a proper perspective. This March experiment is not about seeing how many prayers God will answer if we stop worrying and put all our requests into a box. This is about learning to live in trust and peace, making prayer a way of life and resting in the goodness of our loving God. It’s about not letting worry steal from us any longer. It’s about relinquishing to the Lord the truly serious concerns and even the smaller irritating ones, telling Him and ourselves that we’re going to cooperate with Him as He deals with each detail in our lives, and in the lives of those we love. I have no doubt that at the end of this month, some of us will have amazing things to share. I also know that there will be things that may not be answered as we had hoped. But our goal is to bring them to God and ask Him to take care of them, rather than fretting. We want His peace even in the midst of difficult times.
6. If you need to write down the same request several times a day, that’s fine. It’s better than fretting about it several times a day.
7. Don’t be in a hurry to open your box. Wait until you’re sure you should. I can picture that I won’t open my Prayer Box for a long time – maybe even months or years. The aim is to stay on the Philippians Path of Peace, not to count answered prayer requests. But someday it will be a blessing to open it and see that indeed, God took care of all your needs in ways you never imagined.
8. Keep at it. Anxiety or worry didn’t overtake us in a day. Peace and prayer won’t become a way of life in a day either. Each request written down and placed in your Prayer Box is a step toward God’s peace.
9. Tell someone else what you’re doing and invite them to join you. Traveling companions would be a joy and an encouragement.
10. After you get your container and scraps of paper ready, ask God to help you, to make Himself real to you this month, and to help you to trust Him in ways you never have before.
I’m sure I’ve left something out – if anyone has any suggestions I would love to hear them. I will be thinking of you and praying for you as we begin this journey.
Please consider leaving a comment (you can be kept anonymous if you like) and share if you’re taking this journey with me. I would love to know if I have traveling companions.
God bless you all!