A Praying Life
6/10/09 at 11:17 AM 0 Comments

Bending Your Heart to Your Father

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Several months ago I was on a flight, sitting next to a drug rep for a major pharmaceutical company. I mentioned to her that from listening to people talk, I suspected that one-third of suburban American women were on antidepressants. The drug rep shook her head. "You're wrong. It's at least two-thirds."

Most of us simply want to get rid of anxiety. Some hunt for a magic pill that will relieve the stress. Others pursue therapy. While antidepressants and counseling have helped many people, including me, the search for a "happy pill" or "happy thoughts" will not stop our restless anxiety. It runs too deep.

Instead of fighting anxiety, we can use it as a springboard to bending our hearts to God. Instead of trying to suppress anxiety, manage it, or smother it with pleasure, we can turn our anxiety toward God. When we do that, we'll discover that we've slipped into continuous praying.

Here's an example of how anxiety creates an opening for prayer. When I was a kid, I didn't like answering the phone, possibly because I am not quick with words. I can get tongue-tied in new situations, and I used to have a stuttering problem. Jill would joke that she wanted to name one of our kids Lillian because the letter L was a particular problem for me. So was H. Saying "hello" could really set me back. Sometimes when the phone rings, I still feel a twinge of anxiety. As I reach to pick up the phone, I almost always pray a quick, wordless prayer. I just lean in the direction of God. My anxiety becomes a prayer.

The connection between anxiety and continuous praying goes back to Eden, where Adam and Eve were in unbroken fellowship with God and continuous prayer was normal. When they sought independence from God, they stopped walking with God in the cool of the day and their prayer link was broken.

What does an unused prayer link look like? Anxiety. Instead of connecting with God, our spirits fly around like severed power lines, destroying everything they touch. Anxiety wants to be God but lacks God's wisdom, power, or knowledge. A godlike stance without godlike character and ability is pure tension. Because anxiety is self-on-its-own, it tries to get control. It is unable to relax in the face of chaos. Once one problem is solved, the next in line steps up. The new one looms so large, we forget the last deliverance.

Oddly enough, it took God to show us how not to be godlike. Jesus was the first person who didn't seek independence. He wanted to be in continuous contact with his heavenly Father. In fact, he humbled himself to death on the cross, becoming anxious so we could be free from anxiety. Now the Spirit brings the humility of Jesus into our hearts. No longer do we have to be little gods, controlling everything. Instead, we cling to our Father in the face of chaos by continuously praying. Because we know we don't have control, we cry out for grace. Instead of flailing around, our praying spirits can bless everything we touch.

--This blog post is adapted from Paul Miller's latest book, A Praying Life. Watch for more posts from Paul on the topic of prayer.


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