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Have you ever had one of those days where you just can’t shake your anxiety? No matter what you do, you can’t get your mind off of what is bothering you.
You try to pray, but the only words that come out are short, anxiety-soaked cries for help. Right after those short prayers you go right back to worrying.
I’ve been there. Truth be told, this article was birthed from an anxiety-ridden prayer session. That prayer session reminded me of a very important truth:
Prayer is not worrying on your knees.
If our anxiety level remains the same after we pray, something is wrong. Prayer involves trust. Prayer involves “casting all your anxieties on him” (1 Peter 5:7), not holding on to what worries us with an iron grip.
Sometimes it seems like, although you want to pick up your burdens and cast them upon the Lord, your hands have such a tight grip on your burdens that you cannot let go. It’s like someone super-glued worry to your hands, and it stuck so well that a crowbar couldn’t pry it off.
The following thoughts have proven helpful in my fight against worry and worry-laden prayers, and I hope they give you the same hope in the Savior that they give me.
Don’t give up in prayer.
It is tempting to shoot off a quick three-second prayer to the Lord and think, “That should do the trick,” instead of laboring in prayer until you enter God’s rest. Pray in faith that God hears you, and keep praying for him to help you not worry. He can instantly take you from despair to joy – don’t give up!
Take your eyes off of yourself.
When we take our eyes off of ourselves and put them on God and others, we can escape the worry-trap in prayer because we are no longer our only prayer concern. There’s a big world filled with many problems. Put your hope in God and not in a perfect situation for yourself. Do this, and your strength will be renewed to continue in prayer (see Isaiah 40:31). An inward focus is enough to drive anyone crazy!
Trust in the promises of God.
Instead of clinging to what worries you, put a firm grasp around the powerful promises of God in Scripture, particularly those promises that deal with your specific situation. Your mind doesn’t have room for dwelling on both the bad and the good – so fix your eyes on God’s mighty promises, and remember how he’s never failed you in the past. Pray his promises back to him, and rejoice in the God of promises.
Ask yourself, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
Sometimes anxiety is downright irrational. This question often reminds me that my situation isn’t so bad after all. Sometimes the answer to this question is something truly bad, but more often than not, it shows me how I blow small things (and often really good things!) out of proportion and am worrying for no reason. And once I get a better picture of reality, I can do what the next step says.
This is one of the biblical prescriptions for anxiety, along with prayer and supplication (Philippians 4:6-7). When we give thanks, we remember the good things God has given us, and gratitude floods our hearts. This will zap any discontent in our situation by focusing on the positive instead of what you’d rather change (which will always exist in some form). It is God’s will that we give thanks to him in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Rejoice in the Lord.
Before Paul tells the Philippians not to be anxious, he says, “Rejoice in the Lord always; I will say it again, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4). In Jesus Christ, God is so good all the time that we can always rejoice in him – no matter the circumstances. Romans 8:31 puts it another way: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” If we are in Christ, his blood covers us, and we are forgiven; the Almighty is on our side helping us fight our battles. That is something we can always rejoice in.
Sing to the Lord.
Singing worship songs powerfully applies the “rejoice in the Lord” truth because it connects the promises of God, a thankful heart, and a Godward focus together. Colossians 3:16 says that we can have God’s promises dwell in us richly by singing with thankful hearts:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
And as we set our gaze on the living Christ, we will gradually find worry’s tight grip on us loosened and the peace of God that passes all understanding giving our souls rest as we pray.
When worry comes, as it inevitably will, preach truth to yourself. Jesus is there to take your burdens from you.
He will even help you pray, making intercession on your behalf (Romans 8:34). This will help stomp out the seeds of worry that can overtake any of us if we let them fester in our minds.
May the Lord Jesus Christ help you cling to him in prayer during anxious times and comfort and guard you with his peace!
Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. (Matthew 11:28-30)