Prayer as a Weapon Against Panic

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Believe it or not, I had this week’s topic on my content calendar several weeks before COVID-19 became an everyday term in the U. S. Something that seems equally providential: my Tuesday night Bible study group in Houston (which began meeting virtually on March 24) chose Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing as its March-April curricula in late 2019–and the same materials were made available for a special free online study, almost on schedule, as coronavirus concerns began to envelop the United States. (The materials are downloadable at this FaithGateway link through April 25.)

Are you always calm, never anxious, never panicky no matter what threatens or happens? If so, you’re either a fortress of hard-won spiritual maturity or a believer exceptionally gifted in trust, and I request your prayers for the rest of us, whom this post is for.

What Really Scares You?

At the root of all anxiety–which easily balloons into panic when “what if?” starts to look like “any minute”–is fear of losing something we can’t bear the thought of living without. Our dignity. Our friends. Our homes. Our livelihood. Our familiar way of life. Our physical lives. Our eternal salvation. Or you may be among the 300 million people who suffer from diagnosable anxiety disorders and may not be able to clearly define what they fear losing–but can’t shake the feeling that doom is always waiting to pounce.

He who panics is a practical atheist, unwilling to believe that God cares and God is enough. Besides the more obvious symptoms of worry and panic, any of the following may indicate that you’re infected with the practical atheism of anxiety:

  • You plan your schedule to the point it’s totally disrupted if there are three cars instead of two ahead of you in the drive-through line.
  • You continue tweaking your work long after it qualifies as “good enough.”
  • You get angry all out of proportion to the situation when things don’t go exactly as you’d hoped.
  • Other people complain that you’re too impatient and expect the impossible.
  • You avoid interesting opportunities simply because you aren’t 100 percent positive they’ll work out.
  • You’re always the first to take one more volunteer job–and the last to disagree with anyone about anything.
  • You have insomnia, physical pains, or elevated blood pressure for no obvious reason.

Trying to control everything–or to please other people because you think they control everything–is a sure sign you distrust God’s care or wisdom.

Keep Calm and Pray On

Arguing with your worries or “trying harder” rarely helps. The most effective ladder out of the anxiety pit is simple, childlike praise and worship–yes, even if you aren’t sure you believe what you’re saying. God isn’t offended by “faking it till you make it,” so long as you’re genuinely humble, willing to learn, and willing to let go of what you think you must keep. Here are some specific ideas:

  • Go ahead and tell God how frustrated and uncertain you are. Like human parents, He knows that often a good tantrum ends with us crying on His shoulder, finally ready to accept His comfort.
  • Get familiar with your Bible: read it every day. When you find a prayer or poem, read it as your own words. When you find a promise, thank God for it and mention some specific way it applies to your life right now.
  • Sing hymns (if you don’t carry a tune well by yourself, sing along with the radio or a playlist).
  • Don’t be afraid to pray in detail for what you want. No, you won’t always get it; but just laying it out will boost your faith and provide better insight into what you really need.
  • Get friends and spiritual mentors to pray with you (but don’t expect them to do all the praying: God still wants to hear from you directly).
  • And if you have serious panic issues (even to the point of mental disorder), get additional help from a psychiatrist, Christian counselor, and/or support group.

Worship well and have a blessed future!

Is God Really All We Need?

“Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you” (Psalm 73:25, NIV).

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I vaguely recall reading in a Bible commentary, somewhere, “God is everything, but He is not sufficient.” If you recognize the quote, please note in the comments who said it and where–once everyone else has time to recover from the shock. A Christian claiming that God is not sufficient? What sort of blasphemy is this?

Actually, I believe the point being made was that few people can live out their earthly lives sitting alone in the presence of God–that to be most effective for His Kingdom, we need to live, love, and work with other humans while also performing material responsibilities. Still, it’s an interesting question: What does “God is all we need” really mean? What’s the actual difference between loving God for Himself, and as the Giver of other things? When does asking Him for more cross the line from supplication to selfishness?

Some believers get so caught up in “Ask and ye shall receive” that they think only of how to work “pray in faith” in favor of their whims. Others are so afraid of becoming selfish and worldly, they don’t dare ask God for anything at all. Neither extreme does much for advancement of the Kingdom–or for individual spiritual growth. Where’s the godly medium between–the place where we can be grateful for all we have, yet exercise wisdom to continue asking for more as (legitimately) needed?

God Is Enough Because He Is the Source of All

I would say that the first step is to remember that God is all we need because all things come from Him–that what “isn’t sufficient” is assuming that God will give us whatever He wants us to have without being asked, and that if it doesn’t come unbidden, it must be His will we do without. Having a real relationship with Someone means being willing to freely discuss our concerns and desires–not in a “hurry up and give it to me” spirit, but with an openness to whatever else He wants to teach us through the process of our gaining (or not) our request.

Some other ideas that may help when you wonder what you really need from God:

  • Don’t present requests by tossing them out once and sitting back to see what will happen. When something is important to you, keep coming back to that prayer until you receive a clear “Yes” or “No,” or additional instructions.
  • Don’t be afraid to think big. Why stop at requesting individual funding for a short-term mission trip, when you could be praying that the whole trip prove a catalyst for changing the destination country and your own?
  • Do enlist prayer support and counsel from others–but choose those others wisely. If you try to follow everyone’s advice, or keep looking for someone to second your preconceived ideas, “support” can prove more hindrance than help.
  • Do remember to include adoration (appreciating God for Himself) and thanksgiving in your daily prayers. Besides being a blessing in itself, this practice will help you better formulate “request” prayers and grow faith for quicker answers.

When you develop an accurate picture of God’s sufficiency, life overall will be more fulfilling. And when life is a struggle, you’ll be able to reap full benefit of the truths in a more widely known anonymous quote:

“When we have nothing left but God, we discover that God is enough.”

  • A blog for naturally melancholy Christians tired of being told to "snap out of it"; for Christians who struggle with mental-health issues and long for assurance God delights in them nonetheless; and for naturally optimistic Christians who want to understand their "gloomy" loved ones.

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    I am the go-to writer for people with tough stress issues and special emotional needs—and for those who love them, organizations that serve them, and anyone who just wants to better understand the world of mental/emotional struggles. Or who just wants to pick up some good stress-management tips! Visit my main website at

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