“…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.”
This may not be a popular opinion, but I’m not very enthusiastic when it comes to praying – or, at least praying the way I’ve heard countless ministers telling me I should be praying. The way some people describe how we all ought to be praying almost sounds like the SMART template – Like our prayers should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time-Bound. I’ve heard pastors say that it’s not enough for us to ask God to bless people – no, we should be more specific as to how God should bless them, and while we’re being specific, we ought to ask God for a measurable amount instead of just asking for, say, money.
Well, okay. Some of these prayers may actually sound beyond our means of attaining them. We’d say all sorts of things like, ‘shower him/her/me with blessings’ – and to be honest, the image of a specific Garbage Pail Kid under a shower head spewing trash just comes to mind – asking for what we define as impossible, or what we would personally define as miracles in our own limited minds. If we aren’t asking for things on a scale grander than our own perspectives, we’re pushed to ask for specifics when it comes to, say, how exactly our sick relative should be healed – we’d declare, in the Name of Jesus of course, how cancer cells should ‘die’, and how the different systems (name them all or it doesn’t count) of our body should be vitalized.
And of course, look at that – we’re so bold to ask God to do as we say, but on the other hand, we don’t go all the way by actually giving Him a deadline.
I’m not enthusiastic when it comes to praying, when it’s prayer being put in the forefront, and when prayer is given more focus and attention than the One who has given us the gift of prayer to begin with.
It’s sad because we have the very likely tendency to look at such beautiful verses such as the ones mentioned above, but only focus on ‘in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.’ I mean, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, but we NEED to take a look at the entire verse, and to see what goes before it and after it, instead of just looking at that portion and making the Bible out of it…
See, if I have another point from all the ranting, besides what I said about elevating prayer above Christ, here it is: That left to our own limited imagination, limited perspective, finite body and mind, we aren’t necessarily the best when it comes to praying. Not by a long shot.
But here’s the thing – and I absolutely LOVE how Pastor Joedy pointed this out that I’m actually attempting to play catch-up and be back to current with my thousand-words-a-day quota, with this thought in mind: We may not be the best when it comes to prayer, but we are certainly prone to anxiety.
Before we even ask ourselves what to ask God for, before we think about our prayer – what supplications, what thanksgiving, and what requests to make known to Him – we should probably ask ourselves, ‘What’s making us anxious?’ – See, family, there lies what ought to be our basis for what to pray for. It’s not in figuring out the right words to say, not in trying to figure out the ‘magic words’ to make sure we follow what seems to be a pattern of supplication, thanksgiving, and requesting, because if we get it right, God is sure to listen and answer precisely the way WE want Him to – preposterous!
We’ve taken Christ’s words in what the majority of us call the Lord’s Prayer quite literally. I won’t lie, but I used to actually believe and follow that other people and pastors were sharing – You’re supposed to start off with praise (Our Father In Heaven, Hallowed Be Thy Name) and recognition of His sovereignty, even (Thy Kingdom Come, Thy Will Be Done On Earth As It Is In Heaven); Only then are you to give your requests (Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread) BEFORE you ask God for forgiveness (And Forgive Us Our Sins As We Forgive Those Who Sin Against Us) and protection (Lead Us Not Into Temptation But Deliver Us From Evil); and to top it all off, you’re supposed to end it the way you started, with praise (For Thine Is The Kingdom And The Power And The Glory Forever And Ever).
First off, I’m reminded of how, as Quality Analysts giving feedback, we would resort to what we call the ‘sandwich’ – that is, to commend the agent before and after giving critical areas of improvement. We do this to sort of butter the agent up; and, quite frankly, if we persist in trying to follow this template, then it sort of sounds like we’re buttering the Creator of the Universe and all that is seen and unseen up, as if to say that He isn’t aware of what we’re doing here.
‘but… but the LORD told us to pray like this! Who are you to say otherwise?!’
Glad you asked. Second point, this was before Christ lay down His life. This was before Christ rose from the dead. Understand that what He did was worthy of praise, and itself an act of adoration and recognition towards the absolute sovereignty and authority of God over this reality. Understand that by His death and resurrection, God’s will – that none should perish, but for all to come to repentance – was done here on earth as it is in heaven, and all that’s left for us to do is to believe, by way of allowing the Holy Spirit to minister this Truth into our being. Understand that we have been given the Bread and Water of Life, transcending any and all requests regarding the finite reality our senses behold.
Understand – oh, yes, understand, indeed – that we ourselves have been forgiven, and NOT ONLY forgiven, but our sins have been separated from us as the east is separated from the west! No longer do we forgive to be forgiven – no, through Christ, we have been given mercy, and so we are able to give mercy – we have BEEN forgiven once and for all, and from this forgiveness, we are able to forgive!
Understand that we have a High Priest who has been led to all temptation and is able to know what we are going through ourselves; Understand it is with this understanding that Christ endured the cross, and has therefore delivered us from evil, much so that even if we die, Christ is the Resurrection and the Life for us!
And in the face of all this, we say, ‘For thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, Forever and ever, amen!’
And because of all Christ has done, we proclaim, ‘For the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory are Yours, forever and ever, amen!’
I mean, as you can see, the Lord’s prayer is worthy of an article all on its own, but I suppose the main point I want communicated here is that it’s different when you see it from the light of Christ and His finished work – it’s FAR more than just words to repeat, again and again! It’s FAR more than a pattern we ought to follow! It’s FAR more than a guideline for us to follow religiously!
Man, prayer is NOT a ritual to get God to do what we want Him to do! No, it’s in line with everything else we want to put on a pedestal – Prayer, Worship, Discipleship, Fasting, Communion, Evangelism, Reading The Word… ALL this comes from us CELEBRATING what Christ has done!
And that’s why I don’t necessarily subscribe to ‘praying in tongues’ as in glossolalia called speaking ‘in the tongue of angels’, because the way we’re encouraging it, we’re making it sound like it’s a sure-fire way to get God to listen to us, which is another way for us to say that any other way for us to pray has less of a ‘shot’ of God hearing it. Praying in tongues is up there – it’s NOT a ritual to get God to do what we want Him to do, but if you’re led to speak in utterances/glossolalia in CELEBRATION of what Christ has done, then I won’t stop you.
I mean, I get it. Sometimes we’re THAT amazed that we want to say something, but we don’t know what to say… so those of us who couldn’t ad-lib with any other medium (music, visuals, and other means of communicating beyond speech) go for just… well, blabber. And again, if we’re blabbering from Christ’s finished work, then so be it! May God make it beautiful in HIS time!
I feel I should move on but I also would just like to point out what I’m assuming is a minor detail. If you take a look at the Gospels, Christ only responded with what we call the Lord’s Prayer because His disciples asked Him to teach them how to pray. Furthermore, if Christ wanted them to keep on praying that way, then He would have specifically said it, as He did in Communion – ‘pray this in remembrance of me’.
I don’t know but at this moment in time I’m thinking to myself, I’d rather give Christ more credit than I should, rather than giving our works more focus than they deserve.
What WAS my point in all that? Well, I suppose I said it as I was closing: prayer is NOT a ritual to get God to do what we want Him to do! No, it’s in line with everything else we want to put on a pedestal – Prayer, Worship, Discipleship, Fasting, Communion, Evangelism, Reading The Word… ALL this comes from us CELEBRATING what Christ has done!
In our asking what our anxieties are, I guess it’s in line with how Peter tells us to cast our anxieties upon Him – and, just as in everything else we do in the ‘religion’ of Christ, we Pray and Worship, and we certainly Cast Our Anxieties FROM celebrating what Christ has done. And it’s not like we’d get our requests magically answered down to the detail – no, the guarantee here is a whole lot better, in my opinion: In our figuring the deep roots of the issues we have, and in our speculating how God would respond, and even IF He would respond, in our trying to navigate through the obscurity of the past, uncertainty of the present and the anxieties of the possibilities of the future, we are given absolute peace.
As we pray, lifting thanks and supplications and requests in awareness of the absolute supremacy and sovereignty of our God, He ministers to us with peace – and not just peace in our terms, but as mentioned, this is a peace that is beyond our human understanding, one that is sure to guard our minds and souls, our bodies and hearts – all in Christ Jesus.
It’s as if the peace is alive, and indeed it is – not only is this peace alive, but it is with us. This is a living peace, not present in theory or concept or mindset – This is the Prince of Peace Himself, present before, during, and after our anxieties pass.
So at this point in my life – what am I anxious about?
Well, there’s one thing that immediately comes to mind.
Crypto’s been down lately. You’d think that if stocks are down, crypto wouldn’t be affected, but I guess that isn’t the case. We’ve been hitting all time lows across the board and the almighty BTC isn’t immune from the onslaught of bearish candles.
I’m not necessarily anxious about the price drop, but I am anxious about all this fear of missing out that’s apparently creeping up, which is pestering me to ‘buy the dip’ – something I couldn’t really do right away. First and foremost, there is the concern that the price may go down even further. On the other hand, there are the thoughts that would tell me that I ought to buy now because it might bounce back up. Obviously I need to be more adept in technical and fundamental analysis to have some sort of confidence – or it could even be the other way around, in that I need the confidence to face all of it, enough to look at the graphs with a logical and less emotional point of view? And see, there’s also anxiety in trying to figure out the answer to that question.
There’s also the anxiety in deciding how much I would like to take out of my dwindling savings and inheritance, if I do decide to buy into this dip. That’s another source of concern entirely, and with it are the thoughts of not being a good steward to what I’ve been entrusted to. For some reason all my talk about learning all these ‘lessons’ from the wrong investments isn’t as assuring as it once was. And of course, in all this I am observing exactly how much trust I have in my bank account more than anything else. And see, there’s also anxiety in trying to figure out the depth to this concern.
And say I do decide on an amount to convert to crypto in these volatile moments. Where exactly do I put it in? Do I bolster any of my current positions? Rather, do I invest in the projects I’m in by committing to more ‘nodes’? Do I add capital to other less node-like projects I’m already in, or should I pull the trigger on a couple of new master nodes I’ve been keeping an eye on? You can see there’s anxiety present in all of these questions.
We’re merely scratching the surface of what anxieties I have regarding my finances, and I haven’t even started with my plans for the house, for my family, for my church, for me personally, and for my future. But here’s one thing I noticed as I was writing all that about crypto, and it’s pretty much in line with writing in general – pouring out all my anxieties via this medium of WordPress and Evernote isn’t necessarily just helping me personally, but I do believe that this is also prayer.
I’m casting what anxiety I could to nobody in particular – I keep saying I write because I clarify, meaning it’s all a mess to begin with. I write and post all this more for my accountability, and if you’re actually praying for me, well, thank you.
I’m casting all this anxiety to nobody in particular, but to everybody at the same time. Including God, who I’m sure is no stranger to the interwebs. I mean, sure, He could read all I have to share, but more than this, as I write right now I am reminded that nobody else knows the trouble I’m in more than Him, and nobody else knows the best way to help, more than Him. Just to know this is peace.
And just to know that Christ was with me as I was sharing all this, as He is with me now that I’m trying to wrap all of it up, and as I know that He will never go any further away from me, ministering to me right here and right now, not according to my mindset and ideals, but according to His power and peace… well, that’s certainly keeping my mind and heart together. And really, I thank God for that – for even in my own personal moves of self-sabotage in the name of immediate pleasure, I am faithfully kept together by no less than the One who has made me a New Creation by way of His Resurrection.
In my lack of understanding I called out to the Lord, and He ministered to me by way of peace. He did not answer me according to how I expected. He did not appear as a genie doing what I wish… But indeed, I am ministered to by no less than a living Peace, who is the Peace beyond understanding – Jesus Christ Himself. The same peace that was alive in Him as He faced the raging mob of the Pharisees, and the same peace that allowed Him to answer with equal parts of respect and absolute authority to Pontius Pilate – This is the same peace that is alive in me, and in all of us in the body of Christ, right here, right now.
Friends, I believe you may have your own prayers in mind, and I am not stopping you from actually letting it all out – but I do implore you, as you are letting it all out, why don’t you cast your anxieties down at His feet as well? Before we go into any sort of detail we have may to ‘help’ our troubles, let us just lift all we have in mind to the One who saved us, and allow our entire beings to be ministered by peace first?
What’s keeping you anxious? More than knowing what to pray for, take some time to share your anxiety with our Savior, and be reminded of the supernatural peace we have in Him.
Father, thank You for anyone and everyone who has made it this far. I pray that we would all make it a habit to be real with You with all we’re scared of, all we’re crying about, all we’re unsure of – Thank You, that because of Christ and His finished work we can run boldly to Your throne of grace, to be duly ministered to, even as we lay our burdens down before Your throne. We acknowledge the sheer power and peace of Christ that holds us together during these times. Continue to be with us this week. Thank You Father. In Jesus’ name, amen.