On Anxiety, Needs, and Prayers

I have a confession: I worry often. Anxiety is no stranger, that’s for sure. Some days it’s subtle, and other days it’s far more pronounced and feels like suffocation. Some days it feels like my mind can’t focus on anything except for everything that I don’t need to think about. I’d like to be more carefree, less concerned about the future and the unknown—but I’d also prefer to have it planned out.

Some of our fears are minor, but then there are things that we really get anxious about—things like work, finances, family, and unknown futures. These are the things that keep us up at night. The things that can cause us to resort to unhealthy vices to make the feelings going away. The things that cause us, often, to hide from God.

I’ve been a Christian and been around church for a long time. I know the “right” answers—don’t be anxious about anything, pray about everything! Okay, got it. That’s always way easier said than done, and the problem is that anxiety often causes us to pray about the wrong things. If we’re worried about our finances, we pray for more money. If we’re facing relational conflict, we pray for a quick solution. We pray for the right job to come open or the right opportunity for the future. That just makes sense, right?

A few days ago, I was reading a devotional where the author challenged the audience to really ask God for what we need and expect Him to come through. I’ll admit, I scoffed a little at the advice, despite it being biblical. The reason for my hesitation was because I tend to believe what I “need” are those things we most often pray for—more money, better opportunities, quick solutions. Then I realized that those aren’t the things I actually need—it goes much deeper than that. I need peace. I need contentment. I need forgiveness. I need faith. Those are the things I really need. It doesn’t mean those tangible things aren’t important as well, but they’re never as necessary as we think. 

When I stop thinking so frequently about the physical needs I have and start praying about the spiritual needs I have, anxiety loses its power. While anxiety still lingers sometimes, it’s not nearly as controlling as it once was. 

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