A Prayer Sandwich

Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (MSG)

I love a good sandwich. Corned beef. Swiss cheese. Spicy brown mustard. Dang it, I just drooled on my keyboard….

But it really doesn’t matter what’s inside the sandwich if the bread’s no good. Put it on soggy white bread and I don’t care how lean the roast beef is; I’ll pass. Bread makes the sandwich!

Being from Philadelphia I’m partial to cheesesteaks, and any cheesesteak enthusiast will tell you that the bread is the deal breaker. There’s a Philadelphia Cheesesteak place in Tucson, Arizona called Frankie’s South Philly Cheesesteaks. Every morning they fly in fresh Amoroso rolls from Philly, because Frankie knows that the bread makes the sandwich.

At the end of his first letter to the Thessalonians Paul gives a rapid-fire list of instructions on how to live. And in that list, he serves up a prayer sandwich. “Pray all the time”, Paul says. But he brackets that command with two others – “Be cheerful no matter what” and “Thank God no matter what happens.”

How would my prayer life be different if my prayers were always served up between joy and gratitude? So often we think about prayer as asking God for what we need – and it certainly is that. But how would our sense of what we really need change if we sandwiched our prayers between joy and gratitude? I’m inclined to think that it would change everything.

So, let’s try it. Let’s begin every day this week with the intention of being joyful, relishing the simple gift of life itself no matter what challenges we face. And let’s end every day with a heart-felt expression of gratitude for God’s love and forgiveness. Taste and see how the bread of joy and gratitude enhances the flavor of our prayers. I think we’ll discover that bread really does make the sandwich.

Jeff Marian serves as lead pastor at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Burnsville, MN.

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