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Don’t Worry. Instead, Pray.

July 1, 2021 by Beth A. Richardson

I was already a world-class worrier long before the current crises we are facing. I remember the nights during my childhood when I couldn’t sleep because I was afraid. Mom helped me cut out and tape to my dresser mirror a scripture passage from my Sunday School lesson.

“Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank God for the answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. God’s peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”

—Philippians 4:6-7, The Living Bible

Mom and I would read the scripture when she tucked me in. If I was afraid in the night, I could read it. I repeated the passage until the words became a part of me, until the words began to pray themselves in the fearful silence of the darkness. “Don’t worry. Instead, pray.”

Behind Our Locked Doors

I’ve always been struck by the number of times the scripture instructs us: Don’t be afraid. “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10). “Don’t be afraid,” the angel says to Joseph (Matthew 1:20), to Mary (Luke 1:30), to the shepherds (Luke 2:10). Fear must be a human condition. And facing our fears is a lifetime challenge.

Flora Slosson Wuellner, one of my favorite Upper Room authors, describes the fear of Jesus’ disciples after the crucifixion. “The disciples, hiding in that locked room, … felt and acted like hunted victims. Their beloved leader was gone. … They were next in line.”1 And then, Jesus came to them through those locked doors and offered them assurance and comfort.

Wuellner writes that it is the same with our fears: “God is with us behind our defensive walls, our locked doors. The doors are not kicked in, nor are the walls and masks torn away. … Healing love shines in our defended darkness, and God's Holy Spirit is breathed upon us.”2

When we face our fears, we are not alone. God is with us, beside us when we are frozen by fear. God is with us when we wake up in the night, imaginations racing toward certain doom. God is with us when we fear for the safety of ourselves and our beloved ones as they navigate through the world.

Let My Worries Be Prayer

I still wake up in the middle of the night, my imagination racing toward certain doom. One night recently, my heart started praying about each fear that came into my mind. I offer you a prayer that I wrote the next day. May you know that God is with you. You are beloved. And you are not alone.

When I wake up in the middle of the night
Weighed down by news of illness, hate or war
Let my worries be prayer

That beloved one in the hospital
Let her be free from pain
Hold him if he is afraid
Thank you for all those working to comfort, care, and heal

So many signs and sounds of war
Send wisdom to the leaders of the world
Protect the vulnerable who sit or live or walk in harm’s way

Hatred and fear divide us
Friends, families, communities torn apart
Heal us, hold us
Help us see that we are more alike than different

When I wake up in the middle of the night
Weighed down by news of illness, hate or war
Let my fretfulness be time with you
Let my fears be intercessions
Let my worries be prayer


Beth A. Richardson serves as the director of prayer and worship life and Dean of The Upper Room Chapel. Her latest release from Upper Room Books is Walking in the Wilderness: Seeking God During Lent.


Notes:

1 Flora Slosson Wuellner, Miracle: When Christ Touches Our Deepest Need (Nashville, Tennessee: Upper Room Books, 2008).

2 Ibid.


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I join many of those who will pray for you as you seek to discern what you are called to be at this moment. May God grant you the courage to fulfill that calling. May we all open our eyes and see the misery, open our ears and hear the cries of God’s people, and, like God through the Lord Jesus Christ, be incarnate amongst them.” 

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