In this brief verse, Peter gives profound instruction to the disciple of Jesus Christ for dealing with anxiety in their life. This is the fourth in a series of blogs exploring anxiety and then applying Peter’s instruction to every believer’s everyday life.
“casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.”
We have seen that anxiety is “the ongoing fear and emotional distress and unease felt in response to some perceived threat, whether real or imaginary.” In our last study, we began looking at four broad practical strategies that will help lead to victory over anxiety, and we had examined the first one, the strategy of disciplining our thoughts. In this study, we will address the second of our four strategies, namely:
PRAYER AND CONFESSION OF FEAR
Key verses: Philippians 4:6-7; “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 comprehension, shall guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Key concept: When the disciple feels even the beginnings of anxiety, he/she must bring that concern before the Lord with prayer and supplication, so that the Lord’s peace will replace the anxiety. Develop the reflex that worry is a stimulus to immediate confession of fear and earnest prayer.
Prayer is such a powerful weapon for the disciple of Jesus Christ and part of “casting our anxiety on the Lord” is having the readiness to pray about those things that are causing anxiety. Notice here in these two verses (Phil. 4:6-7) that there are two commands followed by a promise. First Paul commands that the disciple “be anxious for nothing.” Yes, that is a command from an apostle. Then Paul commands the disciple to make his/her requests known to God through prayer and supplication. If that is done, the disciple is promised that the peace of God will come upon them. So how are these ideas turned into a strategy?
It seems to me that the first step is for me to become aware of my anxiety. Life is going along smoothly and then some threat rears its ugly head and I suddenly notice my anxiety rising. That threat could be a “real” threat (job loss, physical danger, scary diagnosis, major negative change in my world, a potential major expense) or it could be something that I perceive to be a threat to my peace and tranquility, something that I cannot control and that could turn out badly, but whatever the case, my anxiety level rises. So first I sense that loathsome feeling and I recognize and admit to myself that I am experiencing worry. “My anxiety is rising.” I acknowledge, I confess (a good biblical word) my fear and anxiety to myself and to the Lord. Next it is helpful to identify what is causing the anxiety. Specifically, what is it? What is the exact threat that is causing my anxiety to rise? These two steps are necessary because they place me in the best position to attack the anxiety with prayer. I have admitted to myself that I am anxious about something and am therefore in need of a power greater than my own, and I have identified the offending threat so that my prayers can be focused on demolishing the anxiety by bringing that threat before the Lord.
This is a good place to remind the disciple of Jesus of the need to always and often be diligent and persistent in prayer so that heaven is familiar with your voice. The time to learn prayer and to begin to cry out to the Lord is not when disaster is bearing down on your life or when the cruise ship of your life has struck an iceberg. It is wise to be skilled in prayer so that this tool in the spiritual armor is readily pulled from the sheath. Your knees should not be unfamiliar with the floor and your voice should be often heard before the throne of grace. In this way, when the time comes to bring your anxiety and your fear before the King, there will be no reluctance, no stuttering, no hesitation.
Once we have confessed our fear and identified what it is that is causing the anxiety, now the warfare of prayer begins in earnest. Our goal is that, by following the apostolic instructions given in Philippians 4:6, we arrive at the peace of God promised in Phil. 4:7. In our prayer, we are employing the means of destroying our anxiety by bringing our mind to accept and believe and dwell in the truth that, “If God is for us, who (or what) can be against us (Romans 8:31)?” This prayer will be war, since the enemy who brought the fearful thought into your mind at the first will continue to remind of that thought as you seek to reject it, but our weapons are stronger (2 Cor. 10:3f; 1 John 4:4)) and our dread Champion (Jeremiah 20:11) is always victorious. Begin this time of prayer, then, by praising the Lord for His might, for His goodness, for His promises, and for His love for you (Isaiah 12:2). Fear does not cohabit well with praise and with rejoicing. Praise the Lord until you are convinced that He is with you and that He is for you. Now bring the specific fear out into the light and present it before the Lord. “Here, Lord, is what is causing me fear and anxiety.” (Consider Hezekiah in Isaiah 37:14ff in a situation that was genuinely threatening.) At this point you might be comparing the threat that is causing your fear with the power of your Lord and Savior, the One who spoke the universe into existence and who sovereignly controls its every action and feel that maybe your threat is not so scary after all, but this exercise of prayer should continue until the anxiety is fully vanquished. Bring the threat into the light and then cast it onto the Lord, as Peter says you should (1 Peter 5:7). The Lord will receive your anxiety and will carry it away. He will accept your fear from you, if you will give Him your trust. Pray in this manner until your anxiety has been replaced with the “peace that passes all comprehension.” Know that the Lord may or may not take away whatever real threats confront you, but He will remove your anxiety if you will trust Him and if you cry out to Him for His aid. (Psalm 34:4 – The Lord will deliver you from all your fears.)
The next blog will continue our process of casting our anxiety on Him with some more strategies for gaining peace.
SDG rmb 3/25/2017