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Why We Have to Choose Prayer Over Worry
Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. Philippians 4:6-7
In•stead, adverb, as an alternative or substitute for; in place of, rather
Decisions are hard for most people. I learned this working in an ice cream shop during high school and college. Baskin-Robbins, also known as “31 Flavors,” was a popular place. Those of us who worked there knew that there were actually more than 31 flavors most of the time. The ice cream cases held 48 different tubs, and there were even more back in the freezer.
It was difficult for people to choose. Go with the favorite, or try the new flavor of the month? In a chocolaty mood, or did a fruit flavor sound better? For the little ones, it was really a struggle. Bubblegum or rainbow sherbet? Or maybe just plain vanilla instead?
The word instead usually implies a choice, a decision. So when Paul tells us, “Instead of worrying, pray,” the next step is up to us. To pray instead of worrying is a choice. It is a discipline that doesn’t come easily.
Pray as an alternative to worrying.
Substitute prayer for worry.
Rather than worrying, pray.
We try to do this, but we usually end up doing a little of both. We pray and worry. But that doesn’t bring the peace, the sense of wholeness that Jesus wants to give us. He wants us to trust him completely. To make the decision to pray in place of worrying. To thank him and praise him even before we see his answers.
He waits for us to just order the ice cream already. He wants us to decide, believing that he can handle it and that he really is working all things together for good (Romans 8:28). As Henri Nouwen wrote in his book The Inner Voice of Love:
The root choice is to trust at all times that God is with you and will give you what you most need… God says to you, “I love you, I am with you…” This is the voice to listen to. And that listening requires a real choice.
Invite him in. Try it. Ask God to help you choose to pray instead of worrying about something today. He will help you put your requests, your needs in his hands—and leave them there. Let him assure you that everything is coming together for good. Then, take a deep breath of peace as his wholeness envelops you and settles you down. You can trust him completely.
Start with this prayer:
Dear Jesus, thank you that I can bring everything to you. Please help me choose to trust you with all my stress. You are the only one who can take my fearful concerns and give me your peace instead.