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Practical Theology | God's Remedy for Anxiety

  • April 2021 Issue
Practical Theology

“Prayer is not our attempt to persuade God. He knows our needs better than we do.”

We deal with anxiety in many ways: breathing techniques, massage, and physical exercise. But God has given us a remedy that may surprise us: prayer. Philippians 4:6–7 urges: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Anxiety is a reaction to the concerns we feel. Often these are focused on necessities: providing food and clothing for ourselves or our family (Matt. 6:25). Or we may feel uncertain of the future (Matt. 6:34). At its root, anxiety is the stress we feel when we are not in control. This may tempt us to try and use prayer to control our circumstances and ultimately, God Himself. We know it is impossible (and unnecessary) to do either. The key to prayer is not persuasiveness but faith. Prayer is the most effective cure for anxiety because it is based on the certainty that God “knows what you need before you ask him” (Matt. 6:8).

Prayer is not our attempt to persuade God. He knows our needs better than we do. We cannot pressure God into granting our request or force Him to do anything. To begin with, we have no leverage. Besides, God is not unwilling. The one who clothes the flowers of the field in beauty and provides for the birds of the air is pleased to supply what we need as well (Matt. 6:25–33).

If the knowledge of the things we need and the power to provide them are in God’s hands, why are our prayers even necessary? We pray because it is our privilege to ask. God, who already knows what we need, gives shape to our words instead of making them unnecessary (Matt. 6:9–13). We have been made in His image. By allowing us to put our requests into words, God grants us the dignity of treating us as His children (Matt. 7:7–11). Are you anxious today? Present your requests to God.

For Further Study

To learn more, read Psalms for the Anxious Heart by Becky Harling (Moody Publishers).

BY Dr. John Koessler

Dr. John Koessler, who retired as professor emeritus from Moody Bible Institute, formerly served in the division of applied theology and church ministry. John and his wife Jane enjoy living in a lakeside town in Michigan. A prolific writer, John’s books include Dangerous Virtues: How to Follow Jesus When Evil Masquerades as Good (Moody Publishers), The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody), and True Discipleship (Moody). John is a contributing editor and columnist for Today in the Word.

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