“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” - (Philippians 4:4-6).
Is it truly possible to rejoice in the Lord always?
Paul says twice in Philippians 4:4 that we should do this. He knows that it’s something we have to command and encourage ourselves to practice. We all struggle, and it’s not fun. But Paul sets the bar high: While in prison, he rejoiced! And then he tells us to pray about everything with thanksgiving as we present our requests to God.
Perhaps prayer is a key to the ability to rejoice always. It certainly is not easy to rejoice in certain circumstances of life, but we have a choice of how we will view those circumstances. God has an answer for everything, even when we don’t see it through our human eyes. He knows the beginning from the end, and it’s our choice if we want to link with Him or not. The world is negative and tries to squeeze us into its mold, but God has a way that we can walk through our circumstances victoriously.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit. It is not something we can create ourselves—it comes from God. It’s supernatural and persists in a deep, abiding way, even when we are in the midst of hardship. Joy is not the absence of pain or difficult circumstances. What could be harder than a Roman prison? But rejoicing always is learning to let God’s Spirit fill you with His unquenchable joy, regardless of your circumstances. If you’re joyful, your life becomes a testimony of Christ’s light for a world looking desperately for hope.
Joy in the Secret Place of Prayer
I cannot tell you the number of times I have walked into a prayer meeting burdened with the cares of everyday life only to discover an unquenchable joy in God’s presence. Often as I pray with others or silently wait upon God, I experience a joy that no circumstances can destroy.
In 2005, I was diagnosed with breast cancer. This totally unexpected diagnosis initially threw me into deep darkness and discouragement. My entire future was threatened. But in the place of prayer in God’s presence, I found hope even while going through cancer. I cannot begin to describe God’s sustaining power and joy in the midst of a life-threatening illness. His joy is real and far deeper than any earthshaking life experience. I thank God for my experience with cancer, because through it God was able to develop a more Christlike character in me. Now I have a new appreciation for life.
Choosing to pray is not always easy, but it is the true path of life. Psalm 16:11 says, "You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."
There is joy in the secret place of prayer. There is joy as we choose to center our life in God and knowing Him. There is joy and breakthrough even in the darkest of circumstances when we choose to make Jesus our highest ambition, our deepest desire, and our greatest goal. Then He breaks through for us with transcending peace and supernatural understanding. Henry and Richard Blackaby remind us:
“Jesus did not pray that you would be merely happy or even that you would escape grief. He prayed that you would have the same joy that the Father had given Him: a divine joy, a joy that comes from a deep and unwavering relationship with the Father. It is a joy that is grounded so firmly in a relationship with God that no change in circumstances could ever shake it. This is the kind of joy that Christ is praying will be in you.”
Destroyers of Joyful and Effective Prayer
The enemy uses destroyers of effective prayer to try to diminish our power in intercession. He hates the secret place of prayer. In the book of Philippians, Paul recognizes these strategies of the enemy and gives practical advice for how we might respond to them. It would be good for us to evaluate ourselves so that we may guard diligently against these thieves of our prayers. Here’s what Paul has to say about some of the ways the enemy uses to steal our joy and diminish our effectiveness in prayer:
Anxiety - “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 Jesus” (4:6-7).
Self-righteousness - “Be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith” (3:9).
- Disagreements and poor relationships - “I plead with Euodia and I plead with Syntyche to agree with each other in the Lord” (4:2).
Difficult circumstances - “I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances” (4:11).
Wrong thinking - “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” (4:8).
Lack of confidence - “I can do everything through him who gives me strength” (4:13).
Complaining - “Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe” (2:14-15).
Selfish ambition - “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves” (2:3).
Bad attitudes - “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (2:5-7).
- Pride - “Being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (2:8).
A Prayer for a Joyful Life
Lord, give me joy in the secret place. I pray for a joyful life. Free me from all of those things that steal my joy and from an ineffective prayer life. Give me new insight, confidence, and faith in my prayers. Help me to walk in purity and humility. You are my righteousness and peace. Teach me contentment in the difficult circumstances that I face. I long for Your attitude of selfless giving and choose not to complain about anything. Help me to think only on that which is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent, and praiseworthy. I desire to walk in Your joy and to rejoice in You always in both good and difficult times. Help me to joyfully abide in the secret place with You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
My husband and I are presently in Jerusalem. This morning we were standing on the Temple Mount—the very place where Jesus will return to earth! Regardless of the present circumstances and difficulties we may be facing, in light of the Second Coming of Christ, we have every reason to rejoice! We have so much to joyfully anticipate, and Jesus will wipe away every tear.
“Don’t be satisfied with a joyless life. There ought to be in every Christian a deep, settled fullness of the joy of Christ that no circumstance of life can dispel. This comes as you allow the Holy Spirit to express himself in your life. One of the fruits of the Spirit is joy (Galatians 5:22). This joy is unlike any happiness that is produced by the world. It fills you and permeates everything you do.” - Henry and Richard Blackaby