The Antidote to Worry

Winfred Neely
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So is there any specific instruction from the Lord to those of us who are anxious? Yes! Paul tells us in the second part of Philippians 4:6 to take everything to the

Lord in prayer. The next (and vital) step to overcoming worry is to pray. Pray about everything.

We conquer worry by taking everything to the Lord in prayer.

The second part of verse 6 begins with the conjunction but, which in the original Greek text is emphatic; it highlights the contrast between anxiety and prayer. Prayer in everything is the antidote to worrying about anything.

In the phrase “but in everything,” the little word in has great practical significance for us. As we journey through life toward heaven, we find ourselves in various circumstances and situations. The situations and contexts of our lives will shift, vary, and change.

“In everything” means in every situation, in every circumstance, in every problem. It’s comprehensive, embracing life in all of its shifts and turns, highs and lows, and ups and downs!

“We conquer worry by taking everything to the Lord in prayer.”

We tend to live as if the situations in our lives are either too big or too trivial for God. Of course we may not admit it, but sometimes we act like our particular situation is too great for Him. If we had the resources, we would step in and resolve the problem ourselves. Or we bury our heads in the sand and try to ignore the harsh winds of difficulty blowing around us.

Alternatively, we may have the attitude that our circumstances are too trivial for God’s interest. Or we may be so confused, so conflicted in our emotions, and so exhausted by intense mental and spiritual battles that we forget that even in these circumstances, prayer is appropriate and necessary. For all practical purposes, we are declaring our situation to be outside the influence of our God.

Prayer Is a Precious Privilege

Prayer, then, in all of life, is one of the most effective, precious, life-transforming, and God-honoring means of grace that our heavenly Father has placed at our disposal. To be able to talk to our heavenly Father is one of the greatest privileges we have on earth! Prayer is conversation with God and is the means through which we draw on the resources of heaven for our pain and struggles here on earth.

In the Bible, prayer was one of the means through which God’s people obtained grace, help, wisdom, and strength from God. Consider the anguished prayer of Hannah (1 Sam. 1:10–11), the desperate prayer of Hezekiah (Isa. 38:2–3), the defiant prayers of Daniel (Dan. 6:6–13), the moving laments and confessions of the Psalms (see Pss. 22; 51). Consider the prayers of God’s people to come in the tribulation (Rev. 5:8; 6:9– 10) as well as the vibrant prayers of God’s people in the book of Acts (1:14; 2:42; 4:23–31; 12:1–17; 13:1–3). J. B. Phillips said this about the first-century believers in his 1955 preface to Acts in The New Testament in Modern English:

It is impossible to spend several months in close study of the remarkable short book . . . without being profoundly stirred, and to be honest, disturbed. The reader is disturbed because he is seeing Christianity, the real thing, in action for the first time in human history. The newborn Church, as vulnerable as any human child, having neither money, influence nor power in the ordinary sense, is setting forth joyfully and courageously to win the pagan world for Christ. Yet we cannot help feeling disturbed as well as moved, for this is surely the Church as it was meant to be. It is vigorous and flexible. . . . These men did not “say their prayers,” they really prayed. But if they were uncomplicated and naïve by modern standards, we have to admit that they were open on the Godward side in a way that is almost unknown today.[1] (emphasis added)

Prayer was one of the outstanding traits of our Lord’s life and ministry on earth. In Luke’s Gospel, the evangelist emphasizes His prayer life (see Luke 5:16; 6:12; 9:18; 23:34). Matthew and Mark narrate our Lord’s baptism and transfiguration, but Luke alone tells us that He prayed on these occasions. Luke says this about Jesus’ baptism:

Now when all the people were baptized, Jesus was also baptized, and while He was praying, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in bodily form like a dove, and a voice came out of heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” (Luke 3:21–22, emphasis added)

Luke then recounts the incredible moments of our Lord’s transfiguration:

Some eight days after these sayings, He took along Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while He was praying, the appearance of His face became different, and His clothing became white and gleaming. And behold, two men were talking with Him; and they were Moses and Elijah, who, appearing in glory, were speaking of His departure which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28–31, emphasis added)

The Lord’s purpose in going up to the mountain was not to be transfigured but to pray, and while praying, He was transfigured. And who cannot be moved at the anguished prayer of the Lord Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane?

When He arrived at the place, He said to them, “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.” And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.” Now an angel from heaven appeared to Him, strengthening Him. And being in agony He was praying very fervently; and His sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground. When He rose from prayer, He came to the disciples and found them sleeping from sorrow, and said to them, “Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not enter into temptation.” (Luke 22:40–46, emphasis added)

Prayer was a vital part of Jesus’ life. Even on the cross while enveloped in supernatural darkness, before He bowed His sacred head, breathed His last, and voluntarily yielded up His spirit in death, prayer was on His sinless lips: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Prayer and the Presence of God

Our Lord demonstrated to us that no matter how dark it gets, prayer is still appropriate and necessary. It is quite possible that in our digital, high-tech, and secular world, with all of its scientific advances, we may underestimate the place and power of prayer in our lives as followers of Christ. Today, if we have an epidemic, an economic crisis, or some major technological setback, as a culture, we call on technocrats, scientists, or other experts to solve the problems of the environment and the human condition. The big idea of twenty-first-century life is to work the problem until we find a solution. God is not even a part of the problem-solving equation. In the ancient world, people called on God or idols, but twenty-first-century secular culture and mindset does not consider prayer to be a major part of a solution on earth. And because we live in a culture with this worldview, this mindset can seep into us and shape how we think about prayer.

“To be able to talk to our heavenly Father is one of the greatest privileges we have on earth!”

Sensing how the culture was shaping the thinking of the church in 1961, A. W. Tozer wrote:

We are today suffering from a secularized mentality. Where the sacred writers saw God, we see laws of nature. Their world was fully populated; ours is all but empty. Their world was alive and personal; ours is impersonal and dead. God ruled their world; ours is ruled by the laws of nature, and we are always once removed from the presence of God.[2]

In our world where people are once, twice, or perhaps three times removed from the presence of God through the so-called laws of nature, science, and digital technology, we may underestimate the place of prayer in our lives as Christians. But if we take the Bible seriously, it is clear that prayer should hold a big place in our lives today. It is key to the conquest of worry. This is why Paul is essentially saying in Philippians: but in everything by (the means of) prayer and (by the means of) supplication let your requests be known to God.

[1] J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1958), 230.

[2] A. W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy (New York: HarperCollins, 1961), 66.

For Further Reading:

How to Overcome Worry

by Dr. Winfred Neely

Do you struggle with worry or anxious thoughts on a regular basis? Does your mind get fixated on the same concern over and over? Do you know...

book cover for How to Overcome Worry