How does prayer work? Prayer allows us to step back from our problems and let God step in to help us.
Philippians 4:6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.
There’s a lot of anxiety going around these days. People are afraid of catching the flu; communities are dreading the closure of businesses; and even churches are seeing their resources diminishing. With no political, economic, or even spiritual stability, now is the time to seek God in prayer. It’s worked in the past, when things were a lot worse. So, instead of being fearful and anxious, let’s try to become more faithful and prayerful.
Presenting our requests to God gives us an opportunity to voice our concerns and externalize our anxieties. If we bottle up our fears inside us, we will experience undue internal pressure and a lot of stress. Prayer gives us the chance to release the tension and place our anxieties before God. Remember the old saying: a burden shared is a burden halved.
Realizing that we cannot control things around us enables us to ask God for help. We are not spiritual supermen or superwomen. We don’t have the capacity to be able to do everything ourselves. Recognizing God’s sovereignty over our lives can release us from trying to solve the world’s problems. We can only handle what God has potentially given us to handle. Everything else is in His domain.
Asking God for help in prayer is a great act of faith. When we pray, we actually respect God and His power. We understand that we are finite creatures in need of an infinite God. By praying, we give God His place in our lives and put Him at the center of all things.
Yielding to God’s will in prayer frees us from our fears. We have faith that God will work out everything for the common good. God may say “no” or “not now” to us, but at least He will have answered our prayers. Surrendering ourselves to His wisdom and will is a sincere act of faith, service, and love. It also calms our spirits, for we know that whatever transpires, it is God’s will.
Encouraging others to pray with and for us has a communal blessing that strengthens our spirits. Yesterday, a friend sent me an email with the following quote from C. S. Lewis, ‘prayer does not change things, it changes me.’ When we solicit other people’s prayers, we are changing inside. Instead of isolating ourselves and internalizing our troubles, we allow other people to know of our concerns and to seek their prayerful support. This is one of the greatest benefits of belonging to a Christian community.
Requesting God’s help, recognizing our frailty, and realizing that prayer is a powerful way to change our circumstances releases us from being overwhelmed by our fears, worries, and cares. It’s a spiritual way of stepping back from the problem and letting God step in to help us. We allow God to be God and we permit ourselves to be His children.
Prayer: Lord God, we thank You that we can freely come to You in prayer at any time, with any problem, and in any situation. We know that You hear our cries for help from our hearts and souls. Ease our anxieties and calm our fears. Listen to our petitions and allow us to hear Your answers. In Christ’s Holy Name, we thankfully pray. Amen.
John Stuart is the pastor of Erin Presbyterian Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. If you would like to comment on today’s message, please send him an email to email@example.com.