How To Pray When You’re Feeling Anxious [1]

Thursday 19th November 2020 Devotion
Scripture:- Philippians 4:4-23
Topic:- How To Pray When You’re Feeling Anxious [1]
Text:- Philippians 4:6


The question of how to pray when you are anxious begs the question.
Well, what about when you are not anxious, but are relaxed? Angry? Furious? Complacent? Sad? Jealous? Perplexed? Happy? Expansive? Elated? Grateful? Some complicated mixture of several of the above?
These states of mind represent only a few of those from which prayer may (and should) issue.
John Calvin called the Psalter “an anatomy of the soul,” asserting that “there is not an emotion of which anyone can be conscious that is not here represented.
All the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities, in short, all the distracting emotions with which the minds of men are wont to be agitated.
As the Psalter has rightly been called the “songbook” of the Church, so is it also a “prayer book.”
Many of the Psalms were written, prayed, and sung from a state of deep anxiety.
Our topic at hand, to which my thoughts will be limited after a brief digression into prayer offered in the apparent absence of anxiety.

1. Perspective On Anxiety:
Because we are so accustomed to think of anxiety in solely negative terms, some perspective is in order.
One of my favorite Professors in my Psychiatry residency program was Dr. John Buckman (1922–2010).
A Polish Jew who emigrated to London to study Medicine.
Dr. Buckman’s entire family, immediate and extended, died in the Nazi catastrophe.
In spite of, perhaps because, of his loss, he was a man of unflappable equanimity and of pithy good humor.
Several of his many aphorisms stuck with me.
He regularly told his residents, with utmost gravity, that all you need to know about people can be found in the Bible and in the works of Shakespeare.
By this, he meant that the nature of people had not changed, and that past accurate observations and insights remained valid and useful in understanding people in contemporary society.
I particularly found his comment about anxiety to be refreshing.
When the subject would come up, either in discussing a clinical situation or otherwise, he was apt to comment.
You have to have a certain amount of anxiety or else you would slide right out of your chair.
His inimitable accented English and his sober expression coupled with an exaggerated slumping down in his own chair were hilariously memorable and instructive.
He was providing a visual corrective to the common notion that anxiety, in and of itself, is undesirable and in need of elimination.
St. Paul’s prescriptive promise, “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.” See Philippians 4:6-7.
Is trustworthy, as Paul might have said. But, if that verse is taken in isolation, it might suggest that we should always be free of anxiety about everything, and that if only we pray and petition God, we will always be.
This is the same Paul who, after detailing his many and severe sufferings, cites one which he deems worthy of a separate category. See 2 Corinthians 11:28.
But, the overall sentiment regarding anxiety and being anxious expressed by Scripture is negatively weighted.
Jesus, we recall, said “do not be anxious about your life.” See Matthew 6:25.
And He admonished Martha for being unduly “anxious and troubled about many things.” See Luke 10:41.
And, by inference, of not being properly concerned (i.e., anxious) about what was more important at the moment.
So, while anxiety is not a desirable or necessarily commendable state of mind, it is certainly a common one, and for most of us, inevitable at times.
Otherwise, why the many scriptural assurances about anxiety and fear?
Anxiety may misdirect us, or, properly grasped, may point us to the right path.
There must, therefore, be a proper tension between apathy and anxiety.
One which motivates us and preserves us from complacency and presumption at one extreme, and paralysis and despair on the other.

2. Depression, Anxiety, And The Christian Life:
This book presents 17th-century Pastor Richard Baxter’s wise, gentle advice to comfort and strengthen all who struggle with depression or know someone who does.

3. Biblical Examples Of The Absence Of Anxiety:
First, look at only two examples of prayers in Scripture which were offered in the absence of anxiety.
a. Nebuchadnezzar’s first prayer and that offered by the Pharisee at the temple.
Nebuchadnezzar was rather pleased with himself and his exalted station in life.
While he had just witnessed the miraculous salvation of men he had moments earlier cast into his famous fiery furnace, his prayer strikes me as beginning with presumption (though it does end in praise).
Looking at only the first portion, he says, “King Nebuchadnezzar to all peoples, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth.
Peace be multiplied to you! It has seemed good to me to show the signs and wonders that the Most High God has done for me.” See Daniel 4:1-2.
His opening reminds me of some of the braggadocio of modern “health and prosperity” preachers.
In fact, this pagan king had plenty to be anxious about, as his subsequent dream reveals.
Nevertheless, he did not find humility until much later, after being visited by a uniquely fitting judgment.
While we should always find words to praise God for His favor, we should not be so relaxed as recipients of it that we imply or imagine ourselves to be deserving of it.
b. Jesus cited two prayers in the form of a parable, and we are explicitly instructed that He did so as a warning to the complacent who “trusted in themselves.” See Luke 18:9.
The Pharisee stood apart from the crowd, perhaps to both separate and elevate himself, saying, “God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.” See Luke 18:12.
Yes, he thanks God, but where is the fear of God reflected in those words, which are as self-congratulatory and devoid of proper anxiety (e.g., fear of God) as could possibly be?
This was given as a specific example of how not to pray.

Prayer Point:- Oh Lord God, give me power of prayer, and to pray through in place of being anxious henceforth by fire, in the name of Jesus Christ.

Have A Lovely Thursday!

Pastor Timothy Ogundele-Jesu

Pastor Timothy Ogundele-Jesu

Pastor Tim Ogundele_Jesu is a Minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and an apostle by the grace of God. He has been used by God prominently in the area of salvation, healing, blessing, and especially deliverance.

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