How do you pray hard about something? You might start out, “Please God, please, please, please . . . ” But then what?
Using Your Anxiety
Begin by asking, what are your one or two greatest anxieties right now? Carve out some extended time to pray hard about those two issues. It is anxiety that gives us the internal energy we need to really pray.
If your normal daily prayer routine is handling your anxiety, that’s great. But when the anxiety stays in your bloodstream, it calls for an extended time of prayer. If you normally pray two minutes, get alone somewhere and pray for ten minutes. If you normally pray 20 minutes, make it an hour. It may be a situation that calls for a full night in prayer or taking a whole day alone somewhere to seek hard after God. The more important the issue, the longer the prayer. Use the prayer guide below.
First, do what Jesus did and get away. Go for a long drive, or a walk. Solitude makes a big difference, especially if it can be out in nature somewhere. And bring your Bible because that’s how God speaks to us.
Talk it over with God from every angle. Here are some examples:
- What is God’s will in this matter?
Jesus taught us to pray, “Thy will be done.” So always begin by seeking God’s good, pleasing, and perfect will. Ask him to help you recall what his Word says about situations like this.
Explore God’s heart. “What do you most desire in this situation, Father? My family member is angry. They hung up the phone and won’t talk to me. I have all this turmoil inside and I don’t know what to do. What kinds of responses could I have that would be pleasing to you?
The more God opens your eyes to the responses that would please him, ask him to enable you to do those things.
- What is your will?
Talk to God about your desires. What are you passionate about in the matter? And what do the feelings you’re having say about your values and priorities? It’s the passions of your heart that are driving your anxiety. Are they the right passions?
Is there anything you love too much (judging by your emotional responses when it is threatened or lost)? Is there anything you don’t love enough?
Ask God to enable you to conform any wrong values or priorities or passions to match his. Use your good passions to empower earnestness in your prayer.
In a ballroom dance, sometimes the man advances and the woman steps back. Other times she steps forward and he gives ground. Prayer is like that. Sometimes we ask for something and God yields to our request. Other times, when our request can’t fit into God’s perfect plan, we must yield and say, “Not my will, but yours be done.”
Ask God to show you whether this is a situation like Moses pleading for the Israelites, where God relented and granted the request. Or if it’s like Jesus in Gethsemane, where his request was not possible, and Jesus had to yield.
- How could you respond in a way that would put God’s attributes on display?
- How could you show humility in this situation?
- How could you show kindness?
- What would patience look like?
- What are some ways you could love your neighbor as yourself?
- Pray through a psalm or two, adjusting the psalm to fit your situation.
- Ask God to show you a good next step in the matter.
Getting Rid of Anxiety
When you have used your anxiety to intensify your prayers, then you can use your prayers to relieve your anxiety.
- Ask God to comfort your soul.
- Lay each of your concerns on God’s shoulders one-by-one, asking him to take the burden from you.
“By casting all your cares on him because he cares for you” (1 Pet. 5:7 NET).
This is a lot more effective than trying to cast your cares on God in one giant batch. “Lord, just let it all work out.” Naming each anxiety and intentionally casting the weight of it onto God is much more effective. When asked how he could handle all the stresses of the massive responsibilities that were upon him, George Mueller, a missionary to England in the early 1800s, replied very simply:
I do not carry the burden . . . It is not only permission, but positive command that He gives, to cast the burdens upon Him. Oh, let us do it! My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord and He shall sustain thee.” Day by day I do it. This morning, sixty matters in connection with the church of which I am pastor, I brought before the Lord.”
The pressure you feel from that relationship problem, that nagging anxiety that rises when you hear that weird sound in your transmission, the gut punch you get every time you see that bill on the counter that you know you can’t pay—each of those problems creates a different kind of anxiety and they must be handled individually. Roll each one onto God.
Charles Spurgeon once said, “Agitated Christians, do not dishonor your religion by always wearing a brow of care; come, cast your burden upon the Lord. What seems to you a crushing burden, would be to him but as the small dust of the balance. See! the Almighty bends his shoulders, and he says, ‘Here, put thy troubles here.’” “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.”
 Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, January 6th, Morning Reading.