Overcoming Anxiousness in Prayer

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You cannot feel both anxiousness and thankfulness at the same time. One of those two emotions has to go! Choose thankfulness over anxiety every time.

Have you ever been so grieved over a matter that you thought you might lose it…in public? This is how I felt last Sunday at church. It is not that I don’t feel that I can’t cry at church, but I wanted to break down and sob, and I just felt that I needed to hold it together. I am the kind of “suffer-in-silence” type. Not many people know that I have been suffering on behalf of the two little foster boys I mentioned in an earlier post. After yesterday, I may never see either one of them again. The realization that they may be leaving my life last week was terribly painful.

I cry mostly about it at night after everyone has gone to bed and I am just alone – me and God. Sometimes I tell God that if He doesn’t work it out for me to have these little boys I might lose my mind. While I may give way to a prayer of desperation, such as this, from time to time, I am not sure it is very effective.

So, while I was standing in church last Sunday fighting back tears, I tried to instead focus on the words of the worship music and sing them instead. This was not because I am “so spiritual”, but because I would have focused on anything I could find at that moment in order to maintain my composure. The particular song that we were singing had some lyrics that could apply to my situation and feelings, and I began to sing them with conviction. I can’t remember which song it was, but the words were about trusting and thanking God. In that moment of singing those words while hushing my inner anguish, something inside of me changed. I could literally feel a calming in my spirit.
Now, in principal I know that what I just did is how we are supposed to pray in confidence, but I had never before experienced the contrast. We typically pray one way or the other; rarely do we start one way and end up another way in prayer over urgent issues. I went from being on the edge of losing my wits to regaining my sense of security in God. I remember thinking how much better I feel praying in confidence as opposed to how I feel when crying out in desperation. Not only did I feel better, but I also felt that this way was more pleasing to God.

I have thought about the difference I felt several times since, and that is when this scripture came to my mind:

“Be anxious for nothing, 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 minds through Christ Jesus." ~ Philippians 4:6-7.

Surely, you have heard this scripture before, as we Christians quote it often. But do you know what part of this scripture I think gives this principal success? It is the part that says, “with thanksgiving”.

God says, “Be anxious for nothing”

Then He says, “but, …” or I might say, “instead…in EVERY kind of prayer …make [my] requests known WITH THANKSGIVING…and the PEACE of God will exceed what I know and GUARD my HEART and MIND through Christ Jesus.

Thanksgiving is a guard for our hearts and minds because it gives us peace, and may keep us from crying out for things that are not God-ordained. I wanted to scream for help. I wanted to get down in the floor for a good squall. I wanted to lose myself in my overwhelming feelings of desperation and grief over these children. There are times when a good cry is OK, but I was feeling this way all the time about these boys and on the verge of an outburst at any given moment. I had to get a grip, and I also needed to rest this issue at the feet of Jesus. I am committed to living providentially, not emotionally. My emotions wanted to snatch them up and hide them out in my house, which is not only illegal, but it is also not God’s will. As commendable my desire is to take on these two little boys, I am still trying to find out if that is God’s will. Anxiousness does not lead me to discerning God’s will!

You cannot feel both anxiousness and thankfulness at the same time.

One of those two emotions has to go. Last Sunday morning I somehow managed to choose thankfulness over a desperate and anxious spirit that yielded a calming influence, which guarded my heart and mind from completely flipping out. It is in this emotional posture that I can pray more effectively. I do not know how what I am praying about will turnout, but I do know this…no matter what I am praying about, I cannot be anxious over it. I either trust God or I don’t. I must thank Him that He is in control, and that He is sovereign. Anxiousness drives me to a place of desperate pleas for what may or may not be God’s will.

For Organizing Your Prayer Closet: Take that one issue that you may be feeling anxious over and begin to add thankful comments to your prayer regarding that issue. Feel free to add worship music in the background of your formal prayer time as well. Let me know if you feel the difference.

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