Anxieties and Prayer

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” I frequently use these words of Jesus at the end of a memorial service, but these words should be comforting and appropriate at any time. Although we would probably prefer not to admit it, most of us are filled with fears, worries and anxieties. Molly Ivins’ “The Fun’s in the Fight,” offers a child’s eye view of our tendency to let our fears get the best of us. Ivins writes of two little children, Johnny and Boots. “When Johnny and Boots were 6 and 7 respectively and growing up in Texas, they played Texas Rangers in the back yard. Johnny’s mother, wanting to take advantage of having law enforcement officers on the place, asked them to go to the henhouse and round up and rout out the chicken snake that had been making an appearance there. They boldly went where they had never gone before, only to find themselves, when they stood tippy-toes to look on the top shelf, nose-to-nose with a chicken snake. Both of them screamed and ran so fast that they did considerable damage to themselves and to the henhouse. Johnny’s mama, who stood on the porch when the boys came running and screaming to the house, said, ‘Boys, boys, what is wrong with you? You know a chicken snake cannot hurt you.’ Whereupon Johnny’s friend, Boots, replied: ‘Yes, Ma’am. But there’s some things’ll scare you so bad, you hurt yourself.” As we think about our Lord’s journey to the cross, Jesus offers an example of how faith in God’s purpose can help us to face the very worst the world has to offer. In contrast when Peter followed Jesus to the High Priest’s house, his growing fear of what might happen if he was discovered caused Peter to deny Jesus three times - and just as Boots suggested, Peter hurt himself more deeply with each of his denials. As we continue to reflect on the meaning of Easter for our lives, one of the very important messages Easter offers is that we do not need to fear death. We also do not need to fear that anything can separate us from God’s love. Only we, by our own choice, can separate ourselves from God’s love. When we are afraid or anxious we need to offer these things to God in prayer. It is only human to be anxious, and God will not make all the things that threaten us disappear, but God can give us an amazing peace to sustain us through such times. Speaking of prayer, I saw a humorous and suggestive story. “Three men were discussing the proper posture for prayer. The first said that one should be on one’s knees with head bowed in reverence to the Almighty. The second argued that one should stand with head raised looking into the heavens and speak to the face of God as a little child. The third spoke up and said he knew nothing of those positions, but the finest praying he ever did was upside down in a well!” I usually do my best praying upside down too. I don’t know why we often wait until we are upside down to turn our fears over to God. We need to keep reminding ourselves of Paul’s words to the Philippians, “Do not worry 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.” (Phil. 4:6-7 NRSV) Yours in Christ, David