“A Prescription for Worry”
“And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts (Luke 24:38)?'”
Prayer is a powerful prescription that is all too often not taken as directed. In our fast paced society, none of us are immune from opportunities to worry. Psychologists point out contributing causes of anxiety; rush sickness which is trying to cram thirty hours of activity into a twenty-four-hour day, straining, striving for promotion or approval, mobility, changing homes, uprooting parents and children and community relationships, fear of uncontrollable forces.1 Beginning in the 1970’s psychiatrists began diagnosing what were commonly referred to as “panic attacks” and prescribed medications to calm the anxieties that triggered them. Today there are pills for panic, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa, to name a few. In some cases it is needful, but perhaps these pills may be overprescribed and the Bible’s prescription may be just what the Great Physician has ordered for us.
The Bible confirms that worry is real. Jesus directed, “Do not worry (Matthew 6:25).” The word that is used for worry carries the idea of being torn apart. Often when we give ourselves into anxiety’s grip it feels as though we are being pulled apart. Our English word “worry” has Anglo Saxon origins meaning to strangle. It is worth noting that in the Parable of the Sower, Jesus spoke of those who were carried away by the cares and riches of this world as being choked by thorns (Matthew 13:7, 22). Anxieties over this life’s cares weigh us down (Proverbs 12:25).
But God provided a prescription for this ill in the privilege of prayer. The Christians at Philippi were instructed; “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).” After this they were not to allow their minds to return to anxiousness but to focus on godly thoughts to preserve the peace of God that prayer provided (v.8). David found that in his troubles God heard his prayers and delivered him (Psalm 34:4-7). When Peter tells us to “cast all our cares (concern, worries) upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7),” we are not to then pick them up and lug them again but to leave them with Him. That’s what we do in prayer, casting our cares upon the Lord.
Before leading the captives back to Jerusalem from Persia, Ezra boasted to the King that “the hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him (Ezra 8:22).” But after embarking on the journey he realized that this slow band of pilgrims were an easy target for plunderers. He declared a fast and the people entreated God for His protection (vv.21-23). This man of God did not give in to worry but humbly prayed to God. Within moments of hearing that his end was very near, Hezekiah petitioned God. Worry could not have added one more minute to his life but God could, and did, extend it in answer to his prayer (2 Kings 20:1-6). As Saul sought daily to kill David, this man after God’s own heart, remained in open communication with the LORD and secured His favor, guidance, and protection (1 Samuel 23:1-14).
The truth we all understand is that worrying does not change our circumstances or benefit us in times of trouble (Matthew 6:27). Jesus repeatedly encouraged His disciples that they should not let their hearts be troubled (John 14:1, 27). Our God is bigger than all of our troubles and He can sustain us through them and be present and provide us deliverance. What does a broken prayer life look like? A soul tormented by uncontrolled anxiety. God does not desire that we should be fearful or anxious but wants us to remain faithful and prayerful. He will keep you from falling, everywhere but on your knees.
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, and whose hope is in the LORD. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit (Jeremiah 17:7-8)”
Tan, P.L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times