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How to Use Prayer and Faith to Combat Worry and Anxiety

Updated on August 7, 2020
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A former university professor of marketing and communications, Sallie is an independent publisher and marketing communications consultant.

Has Your Worry Outgrown Your Faith?

We all know that worry is not good for our health. We know the anxiety that accompanies worry can cause increased levels of stress in our bodies, and stress wreaks havoc on our body's immune system. That means you can actually worry yourself into physical illness.

When you worry, what you're really doing is relinquishing today's peace by trying to eliminate tomorrow's troubles. Runaway worry can cause you to spend a lot of time in what I call “suspended animation,” because it can make you feel like you’re frozen, unable to carry on with other important things you need to do every day to go on with living your life. When you give in to worry, you can spend exhausting amounts of time being anxious about things you cannot control or change, at a time when you need to be focusing on things you can either change or exert more control over.

Replace Worry With Faith and Works

The only cavalry that is coming to save you, however, is the realization that the bigger your worries are, the bigger your faith has to become. No matter what problem or difficulty you might be facing, it is always best to replace with prayer the torturous time you once spent worrying. To grow in faith, it is crucial to combat worries head on with faith-strengthening prayer.

So. Where do we go from prayer? From prayer, we go to work. We spring into action. As James 2:14-26 teaches, true, lifesaving faith is demonstrated through our good works. Because I believe this is true, I believe that after praying to release worry, it's a good idea to become involved in activities that can help you learn more about whatever struggle or trial you're facing. No matter what you're going through, it is always a good use of time to learn more about your circumstances, problems, issues, or your situation, so that you can discover available options and alternatives that could provide alternative solutions to your problems.

I believe that faith without works is dead. What do I mean by this? I mean that having faith without doing all you can do for yourself demonstrates weakness of faith. I believe that works make faith perfect (James 2:22). That is why it is so important to work hard, to do all you can do for yourself while praying and believing in God's ability to guide you to a positive outcome.

Following are ten very big worries that trouble a lot of people. Some of these were once among my very own favorites, in the past, before I learned to replace them with faith. With each worry, I’ve included Scripture that might help someone who has adopted the worry:

1. The Future - A lot of people worry about tomorrow before today even arrives. They worry about what "could happen," when nothing has actually happened to even suggest that a terrible something they are imagining might actually happen (I've known people who profess to be Christians who look to horoscopes and fortune tellers to put their minds at ease about the future!). Worry over anything that has not yet happened, or that may or may not happen, I believe, is a useless waste of time. Why not replace worry and foreboding about possible negative outcomes, or about what the future might hold for you, with faith, prayer and joyful expectation about what God has already promised you? And what about what you can do today to change your life, your situation, or your circumstances? (Read in Proverbs 12:25, “An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up.” Also, read Philippians 4:6-7, which says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”

2. Bad or Evil Things Happening - You'd be surprised, I bet, to find out how many people worry about things such as bad luck, curses, spells, and evil spirits being out to get them. I know I have been surprised, in the past, to find out when someone I knew to be a Christian told me about how such things worried them. I believe things such as these have no more power over you than you allow them to have. That is, if you think they can harm you, then they can. On the other hand, if you trust in God and your Christianity, then you should know God is All Powerful, so even if there are such things as bad luck, spells, and curses, they cannot penetrate the armor of God. If you worry about things such as these, why not replace such worry with prayer, naming the specific “evil” you want to ward off? Believe that God can protect you from such things, because the only thing standing between you and any outcome with regard to anything that has not happened yet is your belief in it. Why not believe in goodness, instead of in badness or evil? (Read, in James 4:7, “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

3. Illness - God is a God of healing and a God of compassion. He cares about your health and your well-being. After all, He sent his only son to Earth to die for our sins, so that we can have everlasting life. Calvary Mountain is like a healing ointment for physical ailments as well as spiritual afflictions. Praying, believing, and pleading the blood of Jesus can bring about a positive change in your physical and spiritual health. Studies conducted with hospital patients in recent years at Duke University have found positive correlations between prayer and healing. Don’t underestimate the power of prayer; add it to your daily regimen of healthcare. I lost both my mother and one of my older sisters to cancer, and I helped to care for each of them while they were suffering in their physical bodies. After my mother’s first diagnosis and treatment, she lived another twenty-five years. After my sister was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer (which we believe was related to her many years of work with chemicals in an oil refinery) that most people die from in less than two years, she lived another four years. Neither my mother nor my sister ever lost their faith, and they both taught me that God’s love can see you through anything (Read Psalm 107:20, “He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.”

4. Failure - It’s useless and counterproductive to worry about the possibility that you might fail at something. Whether you have failed already, or just think you might fail at something, worry about it is a waste of time. Why, it is only your attitude about past failures that stands between you and success in your future endeavors. After all, the only thing that can beat any failure is another try. If you are determined to accomplish a thing, then you should never think of failure as failing; you should think of it as learning what not to do the next time you try. When you know what not to do, that puts you at least one step closer to figuring out what you need to do to accomplish your goal successfully. It is said that Thomas Edison, when asked about the 10,000 times he failed at attempting to refine the light bulb (a creating he refined, and did not actually invent, even though he invented many other things), said "I have not failed. I just found 9,999 ways that do not work." So take a note from one of the world's most remembered and renowned inventors, and keep in mind that failure is what many successes are made from. And, always remember to include prayer in your daily attempts to accomplish your goals. (Read Proverbs 24:16, which says, “For a righteous man may fall seven times And rise again, But the wicked shall fall by calamity.”)

Michael Jordan, "I've Failed Over and Over Again in My Life ..."

5. Money - If you’re worried and anxious about not having enough money for your present and/or future needs, you’re ignoring God’s admonition about “take no care” (Luke 12:22-32). If you take the Bible and its instructions seriously and to heart, you must abide by its guidelines. When God tells you He knows all your needs and will bring you provision, believe Him. And while you’re doing that, focus on living a life that God can bless by participating in actions and activities that are pleasing to Him. When you do this, I believe God will open to you a whole new world of people who can and will help you find anything and everything you need while you exist in the physical world. Spend within your budget, save as you are able to, and give to others in as many ways as you can, and all of this will allow you to complete a circle of giving that will come back to you over and over again. Live a prayerful life, stay close to Jesus, and put worldly matters and concerns into their proper perspective.

6. Job-Related Problems - If you’re overwhelmed with worry about your job, whether it’s losing your job, getting a job, getting along with people you work with, or being able to complete new or additional work responsibilities, then you might need a new perspective about employment. While your job is necessary and vital to your being able to care for yourself financially, it is not to be the central focus of your existence. If your job or thoughts about employment are taking precedence over everything else in your life, then your life is out of balance. You need to begin a spiritual renewal process that will help you realign your life, placing God and Christ as your central focus. When you do this, employment concerns and issues will begin to shrink to the size and level of importance they deserve to occupy in the life of a Christian. This is not saying you should not do all you can to fulfill job and employment responsibilities, but you must remember to put these things into perspective. Prayer is the way to do that. Remember that Jesus was once a carpenter. But He was also a builder of people, and He didn’t allow his worldly job to stop Him from fulfilling God's purpose for placing Him on Earth. I’m not advocating that you leave your job, or even that you relegate it to last place in your life. But I am reminding you that your job is not and should not be the overwhelming focus of your life. (See Galatians 6:9, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”)

7. Making “The Wrong” Decision - If you’re consumed with worry about making the wrong decision or the wrong choice for a matter or a concern of importance to your life, then the first "wrong" is choosing to worry about it. You are spending time worrying that you should be spending gathering the information you need to make the best decision you can possibly make. Sometimes, we use worry as a method of procrastination. If we’re busy worrying, then we don’t have time to do the work we need to do in order to find out what we need to know. And having the knowledge you need about your concern is the best way to make informed decisions. Are you using worry as a replacement for doing the work you need to do? Do you really know, already, everything you need to know to make a good decision? If you’re tied up with worry, there’s no time to talk to people who might be able to help you make a good decision. If you're consumed and overwhelmed with worry, then who could even expect you to be able to make a sound decision? Right. And there you have it, a built-in excuse for any decision you make that does not turn out to be the best you could have made. Don’t use worry as a way to avoid doing the real work you need to do when faced with big decisions in your life. Pray, and let God guide you, and then do the work you need to do. This will enable you to make the best decisions you can, based on the information you can find. Any decision you make after going through this process, no what the outcome, will either be the right decision for you at the time, or it will be the best one you could make, with the information and resources you were able to find (See John 14:1, 27, “Let not your heart be troubled ….”).

8. Being Alone - Worry, anxiety or fear over being alone is a bad use of your energy. First of all, if you believe in God and Jesus Christ, then you should know that you are never alone. If you believe, and you still feel alone, then it might be that you need to re-examine your relationship with God. Maybe it needs to be strengthened, because God is not a God who can lie, and He has told His children “I am with you.” Seek and pray for a stronger relationship with God thorough Jesus, and then believe that He is with you. If you do this, I believe you will quickly lose that feeling of being alone. After doing that, if you still want to “broaden your horizons” and interact with more or different people, seek out others who also believe in Jesus Christ and the power of God Almighty. Perhaps you could start going to a church that has a singles ministry, and meet new people that way. Maybe you could start doing work for God in your community, by using your gifts and talents in service to others. Doing this could widen your circle of friendships and acquaintances.

If you still feel alone and separated from God, prayer is the best way I know to “reconnect” with your Creator. Read, in the NIV, Colossians 1:21-23, where Paul wrote, “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation —if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant.”

9. Your Looks - If there are qualities about you that you don’t like, that you can do something about, then you need to face up to them and either change them or accept them. God loves you, and He expects you to love yourself. If you’re comparing your self-image or your self-worth against a “worldly standard” of beauty, then you’re on the wrong page. If you’re comparing your body to photos you see of “perfect people” from movies, TV, or models in magazines, you need to think on this: Many of the photographs in magazines are retouched, and many of the stars you see on the big screen have spent a fortune on surgeries to make them look the way they do. The image you see is often not even how your “idol” looks. Many times, you’re comparing yourself to someone who never existed in nature. No one is saying you shouldn’t try to look your best, at any age. But at no time in your life should you be more concerned with how you look, than with the person you are, as a Christian. At no time should your concerns about the image God gave you become something you are ashamed of. I think you’ll find that once you begin to love and accept yourself—including the way you look—unconditionally, the people who matter in your life will do the same. God made you in His image, and I believe that means no matter how you look, you’re beautiful to Him (Read Genesis 1:26; “And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness”). He loves you the way any parent loves their child, and He wants you to love you too.

10. Finding Love. God teaches us to love Him first so that we are able to understand what love is, and thereby understand how to use discernment in choosing a mate capable of true love. (Read, in 1 Corinthians 13:4–8a:

“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”

God is concerned about us being “equally yoked” with a mate (2 Corinthians 6:14). If you’re a Christian, that means you need to be with or seeking someone who shares your love and commitment for God and Jesus Christ. Someone who believes in the truth of the Holy Scripture. If you’re looking for love and not using God’s love instructions in seeking it—in learning how you are to love yourself and others, and how you are to flee from sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18)—it could be you’re not truly ready yet for true love. If you haven’t learned God’s love lessons, even if the right person were to pass your way, you probably wouldn’t even recognize him or her. Why? Because there’s simply too much room for error in judgment when God and Christ are not part of the standards of consideration. When you live your life inside the will of God, it means you understand that sometimes what you think you want or need is at odds with what God says is best for you. Putting God first can only lead you to look for the right kind of love in the right places.

When you are completely willing to surrender your will to the will of God, His will becomes your will, and His desires for your life, yours. It may be God’s will for you to meet someone to give your heart to and share your life with, or it may be His will for you to live your life in service to Him and others surrounded by close friends and family, but as a single man or woman. Either way, if you depend on God to guide you, I believe you will live a happy, hopeful and fulfilling life that will glorify God.

"We've Come This Far, By Faith."

Through it All, Learn to Seek Serenity

Sometimes, reciting the old but good “Serenity Prayer” can be of great help:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.

The time that we allot to worry and the anxiety that comes along with it can be a wholesale "unfruitful" way to spend time. It yields little more than mental and physical fatigue. Next time you find yourself giving in to worry, do your best to face it head on, instead, by allowing your faith to overshadow it.

Admit to yourself what you are feeling, and through prayer, ask God to help you strengthen your faith. Once you do that, you will have already taken the most important step you can toward guaranteeing that faith will always be much bigger and more ferocious and conquering in your life than any of your worries.


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