Years ago, an area pastor wrote a little book on worry. He began in a very candid way—
“I worry a lot…I know how it feels, how it thinks. I know the cold drenching sweat of anxiety, the limp knees of anxiety. The dry mouth, the sweaty palms.” (As Ortberg puts it—“So maybe you should lick your hands”).
All of us worry—especially in this age. I worry. This week, I went through a couple of personal crises that raised my worry levels to unhealthy heights. Maybe you did as well. I found my muscles tightening, my limbs limp, my heart pacing, and my breath uneven. One of the great things about staying in shape is to feel like I can get through such moments.
But this is not what gets me through. Not really. It’s words like those from Philippians 4:6-7. Peterson’s paraphrases this way:
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down.”
Paul does not tell us to merely dump our worries—he tells us to replace them. Stop something” is replaced with “do something. The way to be anxious about nothing is to be prayerful about everything.
The command is unnerving—for it is all encompassing. Every detail, every circumstance, every situation of life—every burden, every heartache, every hope, every care, every need…LET IT BE KNOWN BEFORE GOD.
But’s a war for sure. I am convinced one of worry’s strategies is to keep us from praying; so overwhelm us we develop a sort of “prayer amnesia.” I find myself obsessed and stressed and seeking for solutions, and then I awake as from a deep sleep and realize I haven’t prayed.
But this prayer must not be hurried and frenzied—acting like worry. It must slow down and consider what is going on. The prayer Paul calls for must be accompanied by thankfulness—not for what we expect God to do—but a gratefulness in the present, in the midst of our deepest worries.
“Here are my worries today God. I am depositing them in prayer, with thanksgiving. Hard as this is, thank you for what I am facing, for this person I am ready to kill with my words, for this situation that has made life so difficult. Thank you for what You are doing that I cannot see, what You are making out of me that will give me substance. Thank you that I am not alone. You are there and You hear, and You care. You promise that things work together for good to those who are loving God. Thank you that You are greater than the greatest problem.”
Now to enjoy His peace.