How to Pray for Joy

“In your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” Psalm 16:11b

Abba, Father, how I want to experience the fullness of joy. And yet, sometimes I would settle for even a taste of joy. Like a starving sailor on a long journey who begins to forget the aroma of a home-cooked meal, I wonder if I have lost a sense of how true joy would feel. There are times when I think I’ve tasted it. But maybe what I’ve considered to be joy is merely the absence of pain or loss, when rich, deep, lasting joy is not gained from the elimination of negative circumstances, but from the manifest presence of God.

I suppose this is how so many people have been able to endure hardships, trials and persecutions. Considering your people in third world countries who have so little with regard to material possessions, it seems that, while apparently a people to be pitied, they actually possess a quantity and quality of joy that I have never known. Maybe I am the one they pity.

When Peter spoke to a persecuted people in the first century, he said that the reason they were experiencing an “inexpressible joy” was because they fiercely believed the gospel and genuinely loved Jesus. They had their hope set on “an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, though… you have been grieved by many trials.”

That is what I need—your power to guard my heart from unbelief and to cultivate in me a longing for heaven and a love for Jesus, whose presence is all the inheritance I desire. For it is the presence of Jesus, by his indwelling Holy Spirit, that produces the fruit of joy. It is the presence of the One who died so that I might live. The One who was condemned so that I might be justified. The One who was forsaken so that I might become a son.

Oh, how the glory of your grace awakens my heart with a desire to follow and to honor you! How I want to know the sweetness of your presence, and abide there, in the compelling power of the gospel. Then I will be enabled to endure hardship and trials, knowing that through the cross I am a forgiven, beloved son, in whom and for whom you are working all things for my good and joy, and, and ultimately, for your glory. For I am learning that you are glorified when I live by faith and find my heart at rest in who you are for me as my God and Savior.

And so, Father, as you guard my heart and strengthen my love for Jesus, would you give me the grace to repent of my heart’s love for lesser joys? It grieves me to confess the broken cisterns from which I drink trying to find satisfaction for my soul. My flesh gives lip service to the joy of your presence, but in reality seeks its joy in material possessions, physical comforts, worldly security and reputation.

In light of your promise of true joy in the gospel and by the grace of your Holy Spirit, I let go of and abandon my lesser joys, and embrace the hope of the present and eternal joy that is discovered by abiding in Jesus as my only righteousness. And maybe then I will experience a third-world joy, the kind of joy that says with the Psalmist, “There is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.”