31 Days of Prayer: Day 18 – Prayer and Anxiety

Stress ManDo not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. (Phil 4:6)

I find there’s something strangely comforting about getting anxious. When I start to worry about the pressures of life that are weighing on me – relationships, money, workload, whether the Rabbitohs will win the Grand Final – retreating into the safe space of personal anxiety is a cosy little coping mechanism.

But you know what I don’t like to admit but I’ve realised is true? Anxiety isn’t just a coping mechanism or a safe place. Anxiety is sin. Anxiety is sin because anxiety is the opposite of actively trusting in God.

Let me be clear right up front. I’m not talking about people who suffer ‘anxiety disorders’ or specific things of that nature. That’s well beyond my areas of expertise, but it seems to be something of a different order. What I’m talking about is the ordinary, everyday tendency to feel anxious and worried by the day-to-day pressures of life.

In Matthew 6, Jesus tells his followers not to worry about their lives, ‘what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear’ (Matt 6:25). Let’s face it, these are people who had lots more right to feel anxious about those things that most of us ever will – but Jesus still tells them not to worry. He offers a number of alternatives to anxiety:

  • It achieves absolutely nothing anyway (6:27, 34)
  • Look at nature – the birds, the flowers – and see God’s sustaining hand at work. Remember you’re more valuable than birds and flowers, so trust God that God will provide for you, too (6:26, 28-30)
  • There’s something more important, more worth seeking, than your food and clothing: God’s kingdom and God’s righteousness. Pursue these as your highest priorities, and trust that God will provide for your physical needs as well.

The sum total of Jesus’ message is this: becoming anxious about our daily needs demonstrates a lack of trust in our heavenly Father. It shows that we are still people of ‘little faith’ (6:30).

The best antidote to anxiety, then, is prayer. For it’s in prayer that we express our trust in God. “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

When I’m feeling anxious, I face a number of traps. Curl up into a semi-comforting ball of worries as a coping mechanism, while I grit my teeth and face the big, scary world. Fool myself into thinking I can (or must) handle my worries all on my own. Lash out at the people around me. Become paralysed by fear.

What terrible alternatives – especially when something infinitely better is offered to me. I am freely invited – maybe even commanded – to bring all my anxieties to God in prayer. I can ask the all-powerful, all-loving God of the universe, my heavenly Father, to intervene in the situations that are worrying me. “Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) Such simple words, but such a life-changing message!

If anxiety is a sinful lack of trust in God, then prayer is the opposite. It’s hard to beat the words of the old hymn What A Friend We Have In Jesus:

What a Friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!
Oh what peace we often forfeit, oh what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer!

A Prayer
Heavenly Father, thank you that you care for me. Forgive me for the many ways I fail to trust you as I should. Please help me not to become anxious, but instead to present all my requests to you in every situation. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

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