“Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!” (and Other Prayers of the Anxious Heart)
I really don’t like admitting how many of my prayers begin this way, but there–I’ve said it. Actually, many of my thoughts begin just like this too. It’s a little amusing, fairly pathetic, and extremely common. I’ve battled anxiety most of my life. At times it’s been debilitating, but even when it is not, it still nervously hums beneath the surface pretty much all the time. That being said, I’ve made it my mission now to kick it to the curb, and I am not alone.
When I get to feeling woeful and exasperated with my anxiety-ridden state, I find solidarity with my favorite nervous-nellies-turned-heroes, David and Gideon. Although they were not contemporaries, these two men had some important things in common, and probably could have swapped some funny–and inspiring–stories over a cup of wine by the campfire. Both were youngest sons–the ‘least’ in their families–and both were chosen by God to defeat an impossibly large enemy. Both confessed their fears, doubts, and worries openly to the Lord, even in the face of proof that God was with them. Both had weaknesses and issues…and they knew it. But I believe they also knew a couple of things at an even deeper level. They knew who they belonged to and they knew what God could do.
Though they each wrestled with anxieties, insecurities, and (at least with David) major sins, both Gideon and David knew how to activate their true identities when push came to shove. And this is the advice I think they’d give to their fellow worriers:
- Cry out to God when you need help. Be brutally honest and get it all out in front of Him. He knows it all anyway; you won’t surprise or disappoint Him with what’s in there. Read Psalm 69 for a good example of this from David.
- Expect God to answer you. Humble yourself when He does.
- Remember what He has done in the past, thank Him for it, and expect Him to do it again.
- Let God tell you who you are. When God saw David he saw a king; Gideon, a warrior. Who does He say you are? Choose to believe it. Then be obedient and act upon it.
- Recognize that, even through your weaknesses, God’s power and strength can operate mightily. Step out and lead from that place.
- Repeat steps 1-5 again and again. And again. Like, forever.
To be sure, kicking anxiety out of your life doesn’t only entail following the steps listed above–there are deep places in our hearts that need the healing touch of the Lord first, and there are obstacles we need to overcome in order to do all this stuff successfully. More on that next week.
But for now, beloved friends, don’t be dismayed by how easily we succumb to panic-driven prayers. We’re in good company, and the fact that we begin by praying at all is a good indication that we do know where and to Whom to go. It’s a good first step and more will follow.
Question: How does anxiety affect your prayer life?
Want to read more about how to pray when you’re battling anxiety? Check this out!