“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7.
St. Paul is basically telling us that prayer guards our hearts and minds against anxiety.
After returning to work following a week off for the Christmas holidays a number of years ago, I found myself facing several deadlines that all of sudden seemed impossible to meet. That night I was unable to sleep because of my anxiety over all the pressure I was facing.
Appraisals of performance were due by the end of the week on employees reporting to me. A speech, integrated with slides and video, for the annual kickoff meeting of our entire marketing department was also due, along with the finalization of our litigation budget for outside counsel. On top of these things was the general negative fallout from my having declined to take a new assignment a few months earlier that had been proposed by our management.
I shared my anxiety with a small group of Christian men with whom I met every Tuesday evening. They encouraged me and prayed with me for peace and to determine how I could practically deal with each task. By week’s end all but one of the appraisals were completed. The speech was finished and our staff was able to do most of the work on the litigation budget.
In looking back it is easy to see that I had lost my peace because I had not taken my anxiety to the Lord. I started worrying and condemning myself for letting things slide. I was not guarding my heart and mind with prayer to Jesus as St. Paul suggests.
Jesus encouraged us not to worry but to seek his kingdom and righteousness first. He said, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself.” (Mt. 6: 33-34) He told Martha when she complained that her sister was listening to him instead of helping her with the preparations, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but only one is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)
The boundary between peace and anxiety is a thin line and easy to cross, but we have Jesus as a sentinel to guard our minds and hearts if we choose to call on him.
“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)