A woman I know carries a little notecard around with me that has one sentence on it: “The feeling of anxiety is an opportunity, or even a command, for prayer.” This sentence, which she believes God impressed upon her heart during a silent retreat, echoes Paul’s words in Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Paul’s words are very clear—Christ-followers are not called to be an anxious people. It is not our lot to be fraught with worry and fear. Quite to the contrary, we are called to give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thess. 5:18), treating even our trials as opportunities for growth (Rom. 5:3-5). Unfortunately, because of our broken nature, even the most devout Christians find themselves in times of intense worry. The opportunity, even command, in this situation, is to submit all of those worries to the Lord. The obvious question remains—how?
First, it is important to remember that your feelings are valid and valued by God. Though our hearts are deceitful and often bent, God is sovereign over every human emotion (1 John 3:20). Though God does not worry and works all things out for the good according to His will (Rom. 8:28), He hears our concerns and knows our every thought (Psalm 139:23).
Turning our worries into prayers can take several forms:
Praying the Scriptures: the Biblical authors were not without sin. Quite to the contrary, the people God chose to write His holy Word were some of the most confused, depressed, and anxious people on the planet. Their prayers in difficult seasons can easily become our prayers. The best place to look for these types of prayers is the book of Psalms. Called by John Calvin “the anatomy of the human soul,” the book of Psalms provides prayers for nearly each one of life’s circumstances. Psalm 16, Psalm 46, and Psalm 13 are a few suggestions of Psalms that serve as excellent prayers during seasons of worry.
“Making your requests be known to God”: Paul’s suggestion is not merely rhetoric. As Christians, we can “with confidence draw near the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). Drawing near the throne of grace might look different for each individual person. If you are too weary to pray alone, you might enlist the help of a Godly companion to present your requests to God with you. If you are able, spend time in solitude with God, simply listening to His guidance and allowing His grace and mercy to wash over you.
Observing the lilies of the field: In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus specifically addresses worry, saying, “do not be anxious about your life.” This is a bold but trustworthy statement from the Son of God! Jesus continues, describing God’s provision for all creation: “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin… if God so clothes the grass of the field… will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith?” Jesus simply tells us to consider the world around us if we are unsure of God’s provision. God provides leaves for the trees, grass for the fields, rain for the crops, and even food for the mice. Given His love for us as the pinnacle of creation, made in His own image (Gen. 1:27), we can trust that He will provide for our every need.
Spiritual Exercise: Consider one thing that is worrying you at this present moment. Set a timer for ten minutes and sit silently with God. At the start of the ten minutes, present your worry to God. Spend the rest of your time silently asking God for peace. Enjoy the fullness of joy that will accompany you in His presence (Ps. 16:11)!