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Prayer ought not to be a burden - it is joyous communion with our God and a rejoicing or exulting in who he is and what he has done; it is sharing with him the joy of who he is, the joy of how much he loves us and the salvation he freely gives, and the joy of our reciprocal love for him. In the Psalms alone this joy, this delighting in the Lord, this singing for joy in his presence, is referred to about 180 times.

Below are a few varied examples of this joyful communion with the Lord:

1Samuel 2:1 - 'My heart rejoices in the LORD; in the Lord my horn is lifted high ... I delight in your deliverance ...'

1Chronicles 16:10 - 'Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.' [Read also verses 31-33]

Psalm 5:11 - 'Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy. Spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may rejoice in you.'

Psalm 9:2,14 - 'I will be glad and rejoice in you ... I will rejoice in your salvation.'

Psalm 13:5-6 - '... my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, for he has been good to me.'

Psalm 16:11 - 'You will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.'

Psalm 43:4 - 'Then will I go to the altar of God, to God, my joy and my delight. I will praise you with the harp, O God, my God.'

Psalm 71:23 - 'My lips will shout for joy when I sing praise to you - I, whom you have redeemed.'

Isaiah 61:10 - 'I delight greatly in the LORD; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness ...'

Isaiah 62:4,5 - '... for the Lord will take delight in you ... as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.'

Jeremiah 15:16 - 'When your words came, I ate them; they were my joy and my heart's delight, for I bear your name, O LORD God Almighty.'

Habakkuk 3:18 - '... yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will be joyful in God my Saviour.'

Zephaniah 3:17 - 'The LORD your God is with you ... He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.'

Luke 10:21 - 'At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth ... .'

Romans 5:11 - '... we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.'

Philippians 3:1; 4:4 - '... rejoice in the Lord! ... Rejoice in the Lord always.'

1Peter 1:6,8 - 'In this you greatly rejoice ... Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls.'

Revelation 19:7 - 'Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory ...'

As we read through these selected examples of prayer as rejoicing in the Lord, it is instructive to consider the cause of this joy, and the context in which this joy was felt and expressed. For example:

The context of Habakkuk's joy is extreme famine and hardship; these physical and financial stresses cannot deflate his joy because his joy is derived from and caused by God himself, not by the material blessings given by God.

The context of Paul's command to 'rejoice in the Lord' is the truth that it is not our own personal righteousness that saves us, but the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. Any rejoicing, any glorying, in our perceived religious merit is outlawed by the Gospel of grace and the gift of righteousness.

This joy in the presence of God, this rejoicing, this sharing with God in his joy, regardless of the circumstances of our lives, is possible only for those who know him and trust him. Those who are only on the edge of faith, knowing that God actually exists but with no true knowledge of him, can only contemplate him with an element of fear and the expectation of judgement. Because they do not know God, they cannot rejoice in him. Because they have not received the salvation he freely gives they cannot rejoice in that salvation.

But for those who know God by knowing Jesus the Son of God, for those who have received his immeasurable grace of forgiveness through Jesus Christ, this joy in God should characterize not only our prayer, but our lives: We, Paul says, 'rejoice in God' - God is no longer a threat to us. God is the source and the cause of our joy. We, Peter says, 'greatly rejoice ... and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy'.

This joy - this joy of the LORD - is our strength [Nehemiah 8:10].

© Rosemary Bardsley 2017