I don’t know why, but I have this image that my prayer list is like a basket that gets filled up until there’s no more room for any other worries or concerns. Once the basket gets filled, that’s that.
I’m pretty sensitive, so the things I feel compelled to pray about are fished from various streams, and the basket gets quickly filled to overflowing.
The worries close to home always come first – illness or a safety threat to anyone in my family, my writing projects, our finances, my husband’s job, the running around for the kids’ school and activities, our family nutrition plan, (which ebbs and flows in effectiveness), the need to search for alternate ways to restore our home since our contractor, Jesus, seems to have left us for good. (Seriously. I don’t think there’s going to be a resurrection).
Next comes the wider circle of church family and friends, and those prayers offered up for people’s jobs, apartments, health, the health of their loved ones – you know, because when you love someone, you care about their people too. There are the church activities, such as the kids classes and pre-teen and teen camps, the Bible studies, discussion groups, house churches – those prayers that God moves within us as we get busy, and that we’re not just running around being busy.
Believe it or not, but my Internet people who I met through blog and Facebook form a community and I pray for them too. People who are waiting for an organ donor, whose neighbours are suffering, who are going through cancer, who need a job, an apartment, who are rejected for one aspect of their humanness or another – the list goes on. Just throw them all in the basket! The prayers, not the people.
Beyond that is our local community, government, and world concerns. In our case we have two governments to pray for and there is no shortage of issues (especially lately) that cause anxiety and provoke an increased need for prayer. Beyond that are the wars and the threats of wars, the acts of terrorism and its victims, the refugees that are flooding Europe.
And just today I read about the famine victims in this article, located in East Africa where we used to live. It says that 20 million people face death through starvation, and that the UN needs to raise $4.4 billion by July to prevent that from happening. 20 million people.
20 million people. Dying because there’s not enough to eat.
My first thought is to give, and if that’s yours too, here’s an article with some ideas of where your money might be most effective. And of course I throw that on top of my basket of prayer too, and I do it because I truly believe prayer to be effective. When something is so daunting and tragic, what can I do but pray? I’ve seen its effectiveness. I’ve witnessed one too many miracle ever to doubt again. So let me praaaaaaay.
But somewhere in the course of all these worries, the basket starts to get heavy. My prayer list gets long, and just looking at it in the morning makes me want to go back to bed.
I realized this the other day when I took one look at my list and sighed. I focused on everything that was not going right and felt like giving up before I started. Instead of giving it all over to God in a “cast your anxiety on him because he cares for you” kind of way, I was holding on to my basket.
I do that. I hold on to my list and feel like by faithfully praying through each one, I’m going to make it happen. It’s all up to me, folks. If I pray for you; everything will be alright. I’ve got this. It’s like thinking by staying awake on the plane for 13 hours, I’m going to keep it from crashing.
Not only is it ridiculous, this way of thinking is idolatrous too, don’t you think? (By my own strength, I will … )
Because in the end it’s God who carries the basket. Oh, I can hold on to it, alright. Sure! Why not? I can hold on to my list of prayers and faithfully go through each one on the list, and all that is good. But when the prayer list becomes burdensome, that’s when I know I’m not going in the right direction.
That’s what happened last week. I realized I was straining to lift this ever-increasing list of prayers before him. I was groaning under the weight of the increasing basket of needs. And faithfully sorting and offering each prayer was causing me to feel its weight doubly so. I was more anxious after praying, not less!
But God doesn’t say to carry the basket of prayers up to him. He doesn’t say to groan under its weight. He says to cast our anxieties on God. Throw them. One by one. One wiggly little fish of a prayer after another until the basket has nothing left and God is carrying its entire contents in his capable hands.
God has got it, my friends. He’s not worried about how it’s all going to work out. He thought of the solution before the problem appeared. And he cares about you.
He cares about the sparrow that hops from tree to tree. Does he not care even more about those who, whether for themselves or their loved ones, are frightened by how fragile life is? He created the splendid flowers of the field that are here today, and tomorrow are thrown into the fire. Can he not handle something as simple as providing an apartment for a family who needs it, or a job for the person who is nearing the end of her savings? He feeds and cares for the birds of the air who do not sow or reap or store away in barns. Does he not also care about the 20 million people who do not have enough to eat?
Pray. Of course, pray! But remember who you’re praying to. And cast your anxiety on Him.
Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18
Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. James 5:13
For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, 1 Peter 3:12
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God Philippians 4:6
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7