Pray More. Worry Less.

The Bible tells us to not worry about anything. Nothing? Ever? That’s a challenging instruction to follow!

The news pushes us to worry every day. We should worry about the rising death toll, the spread of the virus, the violence of extreme ideologies, climate change, unequal rights of different genders, the fear of offending anyone, anywhere! How can we not worry about anything? Every day is full of new anxieties!

Let’s get to the bottom of this by reading a few verses from Philippians chapter 4, where we find this strong encouragement to not worry, from verse 6: 6 Don’t be pulled in different directions or worried about a thing. Be saturated in prayer throughout each day, offering your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life, 7 then God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ. 8 So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honourable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising him always. 9 Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things.

The Bible speaks to all generations at all times, and through the words of Paul, it’s saying: No matter what our situation or circumstances, there’s no need to be anxious. What benefits come from worrying? How do we benefit from being fretful? From being afraid?

And the answer is: Absolutely nothing!

Our worrying and our anxiety don’t improve our circumstances in any way. We can dip into the well of worry and drink deeply, but it won’t bring about any positive changes in our situation other than getting us drunker on anxiety and fear. Jesus Himself made this point in a few verses from Luke 12:25-26: 25 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life? 26 And if worry can’t accomplish a little thing like that, what’s the use of worrying over bigger things?

Jesus says that worry and fear don’t bring anything positive to our lives. In fact, worry and fear do more harm than good. It has been shown in several scientific studies that anxiety is destructive to our physical health – a massive contributor to heart disease, weakening of the immune system, gastrointestinal disorders, migraines, ulcers, high blood pressure, etc. And it’s also very destructive spiritually.

Why do I think that? Because a mind that’s occupied with worry and fear and distress is a mind that’s not focused entirely on God.

When we worry too much and fret to the point of becoming overly anxious, we can lose sight of Jesus. We begin to handle our circumstances and situations through human capacity alone – forgetting that our first port of call should have been Jesus.

When we worry, we’re in danger of losing sight of the goodness and blessings that come through our relationship with Jesus. There is a possibility that we become cynical and ungrateful; we take our eyes off the One who is the only source of real and lasting peace.

In verse 7 of this Philippians chapter, Paul tells us that: “God’s wonderful peace that transcends human understanding, will make the answers known to you through Jesus Christ.”

The peace that comes from Jesus can not only can it banish anxiety and anguish and fear from our hearts and minds – it can keep it away. The peace that only comes from God can act like a soldier on guard to protect our hearts and minds. It won’t allow anxiety, hopelessness and fear to sneak back in. The peace of God is stronger than the worry and fear of our human condition. Just as God is greater than our situations and circumstances, so is God’s peace much, much greater than our inward worries and fears.

We can experience perfect inward peace and tranquillity amid the most trying circumstances. Experiencing this peace doesn’t seem possible or rational. But Paul says that the peace of God “…transcends human understanding.” 

It’s hard to comprehend how, when our world seems to be collapsing around us, we can be perfectly calm and wholly composed. But the simple answer is the peace of God can provide that immense blessing.

Jesus said, in John 14:27: 27 “I am leaving you with a gift – peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.”

Nothing in this world can give you or teach you how to experience Divine peace. You can chant, do yoga, practice your bio-rhythms, pop your pills or have a drink, listen to your meditation music, consume your herbs, burn your aromatic candles or shop online ’til your fingers drop off. You’ll not find the inward tranquillity that only God can give. The world can’t supply it, nor can you find it in yourself. It comes from God alone.

Let me give you four keys to help you in finding peace amongst the stresses and strains of life today, and the first is the biggy:

1. Prayer

In verse 6 of Philippians 4, we hear a heartfelt encouragement to, “Be saturated in prayer throughout each day.”

If you find something is taking you in a journey to the land of worry of fear, when you begin to recognise the familiar scenery of anxiety, take it to God in prayer. You don’t need to be shy about bringing whatever it is to Him, whether big or small. If it concerns you, it concerns Him, because He wants you to be at peace and not be anxious. 

We don’t have to be nervous about pouring our heart out to Him. The Bible tells us in 1 Peter 5:7 that “He tenderly cares for you.” God is interested in the big and the minutiae of our lives. Nothing is too trivial to discuss when you approach what the Bible describes as “the throne of grace.” – which is the very presence of God, our loving Father. 

Paul continues in verse 6 of Philippians 4, “offer your faith-filled requests before God with overflowing gratitude. Tell him every detail of your life…” 

How would you like your situation to be? What changes would you like to see in your circumstances or the circumstances of others? 

What would you like for God to do?

In your prayers to God be specific in your request. Submit to God exactly what you’d like changed. If it is not an unrighteous desire (something that God wouldn’t oppose), then you don’t need to be timid in stating your requests. 

We can ask whatever we like of God if we present it in this way. What is probably more important than the request itself, is believing that God can, and will choose to grant our request. We must believe that God can answer our prayers.

I think it’s good to remind ourselves of something else Paul writes in Ephesians 3:20, in which he says that God, “Never doubt God’s mighty power to work in you and accomplish all this. He will achieve infinitely more than your greatest request, your most unbelievable dream, and exceed your wildest imagination! He will outdo them all, for his miraculous power constantly energises you.”

His answer will be the product of His love. It’ll be an answer given with divine compassion and wisdom. And it‘ll spur us on to do more for Him, as we know that He’ll come through for us.

God always answers our prayers. Let me repeat that – God always answers our prayers – we might, however, miss the answer if it wasn’t presented in a way we expected or we haven’t waited long enough. He’ll answer by delivering whatever is best for us. In Matthew 7, verses 7 to 11, we find this: 7 “Ask, and the gift is yours. Seek, and you’ll discover. Knock, and the door will be opened for you. 8 For every persistent one will get what he asks for. Every persistent seeker will discover what he longs for. And everyone who knocks persistently will one day find an open door.” and verse 11 11 “…how much more ready is your heavenly Father to give wonderful gifts to those who ask him?”

Sometimes God will answer our prayers precisely as we requested. Sometimes He’ll respond in a way different than we had thought He would. But this will always be for our benefit, whether we see it straight away or not.

Our basis for peace of mind, for a worry-free life, is that God hears and God answers us, and He answers us by giving us what is good. He always delivers what is best. Once we take a concern, a worry to the God, we must leave it with Him. 1 Peter 5:6-7 says: 6 If you bow low in God’s awesome presence, He will eventually exalt you as you leave the timing in his hands. 7 Pour out all your worries and stress upon him and leave them there, for He always tenderly cares for you.

2. Thanksgiving

The second key to living a worry free-life and resting in God’s peace is also found in verse 6 of Philippians 4. Paul says that we are to have “…overflowing gratitude.” Often, when we’re full of worry and fear, we can fail to count our blessings. We forget to acknowledge how good God has been to us already. 

It’s good to reflect regularly how faithful God is to us. To quote a famous hymn – Think of the many dangers, toils and snares He has delivered us from and thank Him for it. But, let’s not only thank God for past blessings and answers to prayer. We need to thank Him for present circumstances too.

Psalms 118:29: 29 So let’s keep on giving our thanks to God, for he is so good! His constant, tender love lasts forever!

3. Dwell on the Positive

The third key to peace of mind is partially connected to the second – when it comes to our thinking, dwell on the positive. Paul says, in verse 8 of Philippians 4: 8 So keep your thoughts continually fixed on all that is authentic and real, honourable and admirable, beautiful and respectful, pure and holy, merciful and kind. And fasten your thoughts on every glorious work of God, praising Him always.

This key to handling our worries is where we might fail the most. Too often, we allow our minds to dwell on the negatives in our lives rather than positives. We’re quite good at seeing our glass as half empty rather than half full.

Yet everyone can find a silver lining in even the darkest cloud. We need to look hard enough and for long enough. As Christians, our search for that silver should be our first instinct and first response. God is with us, and He’s for us. The creator of the universe is working in our lives wanting to change us for the better, to be more like Him. We should be the most optimistic and positive people on planet Earth! How much more would we stand out as people of faith if we reject cynicism and embrace trust, reject the notion that everything is heading to hell in hand-basket and fully embrace the Biblical idea of the Kingdom restoration of all things?

4. Read the Scriptures

We should all be striving to obey and learn from the teachings of Scripture. Paul says, in verse 9 of Philippians 4: 9 Follow the example of all that we have imparted to you and the God of peace will be with you in all things.

If we read and obey God’s Word, we’ll avoid many unnecessary heartaches and headaches. We can stay away from so many problems and troubles if we would genuinely strive to apply the teachings of Christ to our lives. Proverbs 3:1-2 says: My child, if you truly want a long and satisfying life, never forget the things that I’ve taught you. Follow closely every truth that I’ve given you. Then you will have a full, rewarding life.

If we are sincere in our walk with God, we’ll know when we’re doing something or acting a certain way that is not good. Paul said in Acts 24:16: 16 That’s why I seek with all my heart to have a clean conscience toward God and toward others.

With obedience comes a clear and clean conscience. A clear and clean conscience promotes peace of mind which leads to less worry and anxiety.

The teachings of Jesus emphasise looking beyond ourselves and serving others. The more we take our focus off our predicaments, our troubles, our difficulties, our afflictions and we focus on how we can make life better for someone else, or how we can glorify God – our minds will be liberated. Put into practice Jesus’s demand for selfless service. In Galatians 6:2, we find a short yet clear command: 2 “Love empowers us to fulfil the law of the Anointed One as we carry each other’s troubles.”

These four keys:

  1. Pray often
  2. Give thanks daily
  3. Dwell on the positive
  4. Read the Scriptures regularly and follow the example of Jesus.

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