Broadcast

In Anxious Moments

From the series I Choose Peace

When life gets hard, really hard, we have two options. We can become consumed with worry – which is what most people do, OR we can trust God, who tells us not to worry or be anxious. Are you able to trust God’s goodness, or does the anxiety just seem too overwhelming?  Chip explains how we can actually turn our upsetting circumstances back to God and experience His supernatural peace. 

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Message Transcript

It is well with my soul. It is well with my soul.

You can’t sing a song like that and not pause just to ask: how is it going with your soul? Is it well? When you think of the fears, the frustrations, the thoughts about the future – how are you doing?

The song is really powerful but the story behind it might be more powerful. It was first sung in 1876. It was written by Horatio Spafford. He was an attorney that did well in investments in Chicago, he was a close, personal friend of a guy named D.L. Moody who was an evangelist of an earlier century.

In 1871, there was a fire in Chicago. It’s called the Great Chicago Fire. And he had lost almost all of his holdings, all of investments. So any of you that have ever gone broke, that’s where he was.

And as he has begun to build his life up again, he just felt like, We need to pause for a moment. He said to his wife and he had four daughters, “I want you to get on this ship, we will all go together, let’s get a couple months away to get perspective in Europe.”

Just ready to get on the ship and there was a zoning problem with some property and so he had to stay behind for a few days. He says, “I’ll catch the next ship.”

It is now a famous telegraph. The ship with his wife and his four daughters was hit by another ship at sea. It went down. And he received from his wife a telegram that says, “Saved alone.” All four of his daughters died in that shipwreck.

A very few weeks later he was on a second ship to meet his wife and when he came to the place where the two ships collided, the captain brought him and said, “This is about the place where you lost your daughters.” And the words that we sang earlier is as he looked out over the ocean with the Spirit of God speaking into the deepest parts of his hurt and his pain and his loss he said, “When peace like a river; it’s well with my soul. Like sea billows roll, it is well with my soul.”
And I don’t know about you, but it seems humanly impossible to

lose everything financially, lose four of your daughters, and to honestly and sincerely say, “It is well with your soul.”

And, yet, if you’ll notice on the front of your teaching handout, that is exactly what Jesus promised His early disciples and Horatio Spafford is just one person among millions over the last couple millennia who have experienced the Spirit of God to do something inside of them that is beyond any human understanding.

The last night Jesus, with His disciples, said to them, “I have told you these things so that in Me, that you might have peace. In the world you will have trouble, tribulations. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

This isn’t theory here. We have had ten memorial services in the last thirty days in our church. There are people all around you that have lost a mom, a dad, a grandpa, a child.

And that’s not unique. Everyone in this room, right? We have our issues. But we can choose peace. But how do you choose peace in moments of extraordinary anxiety? That’s what we are going to learn.

As we do, sometimes you have to learn a little bit about the problem before you can solve it. So let’s do a little research together. What exactly is anxiety? A textbook definition – it’s an uneasiness, apprehension, dread, concern, tension, restlessness, and worry. The anxious individual often anticipates misfortune, danger, or doom. We don’t need that definition. That kind of describes where a lot of us are multiple times a week, at times.

The biblical word for anxiety literally means to take thought. It can be used in a positive way like taking thought for something positively, but mostly it’s used in the New Testament for taking thought as being obsessed with something. You can’t get your mind off of it.

The German word comes from the word to choke or to strangle. And anxiety, at its heart, has the idea: inside your mind of being pulled in two different directions.

What makes us anxious or causes it is fear of the future. This is probably the most common one. Fear of failure, fear of another terrorist attack, fear of an economic downturn, fear that your kids won’t turn out right, fear you’ll be single the rest of your life, fear that the marriage that you’re in is never going to get any better, fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, you name it.

For others, anxiety is produced by conflict in the present. Conflict in your marriage, conflict with a friend, conflict at work, conflict with a neighbor, conflict with one of your kids, conflict with your in-laws.

A third cause for anxiety is in the past – regret. There are times when things are just going well and you’re just driving in your car and out of the blue, tsooo! You remember, Oh my. What you did back then that you hope no one ever finds out.

Or for some of us, we came to know Christ later in life and we made some mistakes and there are issues with some of our kids or some things about our life that we can’t change and we just start getting overwhelmed with, I blew it, I blew it, I blew it. And it produces this anxiety. Anxiety isn’t just a little thing to take a pill. Anxiety can ruin your life.

I have a friend who is a professor, a medical doctor. And he wrote a textbook on psychological disorders. Here’s a list of things that anxiety produces in us mentally, spiritually, and emotionally.

It makes people hyper-alert, irritable, fidgety, over dependent, insomnia, talkative, poor memory, fainting episodes, excessive perspiration, muscle tension, headaches including migraines, quivering voice, hyperventilation, abdominal pain, nausea, diarrhea, high blood pressure.

I don’t know about you, but that list alone tells me: I don’t know how to get rid of anxiety, but I want to get rid of it in a hurry, right?

Here’s – so, that’s the issue. How do you overcome anxiety? There are many of you, this last week, you woke up at 2:11 and then 3:05 or 4:07 and you’re thinking about the future and your mind, it goes over and over and over again and you’re very fearful about something or you’re in conflict with someone and the stomach acid is going around.

How does that change? That’s what we are going to learn. Open your notes. I want to tell you that you simply do not have to live as an anxious person. It is possible to absolutely be at peace in the midst of horrendous, difficult, and uncertain times. Jesus promised it. “My peace I give to you.”
You might jot on the very top of your notes: 1 Peter 5:7. Peter would make a command and he would say, “Cast all your burdens upon the Lord, because He cares for you.” And the burdens are cares. It’s the picture of a, like a nine or ten-year-old boy coming home on Friday and he’s got his backpack and he takes his backpack and he throws it to the corner and goes, “Wow! No homework! Weekend!” Literally, and you know what? He doesn’t go and just go, “Oh, I wonder if I’ve got something due later.” He’s eight years old! He just takes it off, there’s no homework, man, it’s going to be fun. That’s the picture of casting all your burdens on the Lord – why? He really cares for you.

You give your problems, your struggles, and anxiety to a personal God who is in control, who is all-wise, who is loving, who is powerful. And you are the object of His affection.

And in Philippians chapter 4, verses 6 and 7, he will give you a specific game plan that every time anxiety comes and knocks on the door of your heart, this game plan will teach you that prayer can answer the door and you can run into your Father’s arms and God will give peace.

You are going to learn that every time anxiety knocks on the door of your heart, that you literally can let prayer answer it and then run into your Father’s arms. You’re going to learn – do I need to say it again?

I want you to read the text silently as I read it out loud. Command, “Do not be anxious about anything,” second command, “but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God.” Promise, “And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Now, if you’re a little bit new, we study the Bible together and so, one of the questions we always ask before we make application is: what does it actually say? And by that, you need to make some observations. The Word of God is living and active, sharper than a two-edged sword. And it’s truth.

The second question is after “what does it say?” well, what does it actually mean? What did it mean to its first century hearers and what does it mean to us? And then the last question that is most important is: so, God, what do You want me to do? How do I put this into practice?

So often, at least when I study, I will outline the text. What I have laid out here for – I call it a “mechanical outline.” Just like when you study a poem or study Shakespeare and you want to grammatically see what is happening in it.

So, what I have done is I have taken it in the original language and I have just literally put in order so you can see the grammar. You don’t need to know the original language, but in this particular case it is interesting that he takes a word completely out of order to make his point.

So, notice, just when I lay it, the first command is: “Nothing be anxious about.” If you have a pen, put a little arrow and write, “negative command” in your notes. In other words, we are commanded, literally, it’s: stop being anxious. Stop worrying. It’s not just a little thing. It eats up your soul. It ruins your emotions. It thwarts your relationships. It chokes the life out of you. Stop worrying.

And if it’s a command, that means there has got to be power and a way to obey this command.
Notice the positive command: “But in everything,” he is going to give us four specific words for prayer. After the “everything,” put an arrow, put “positive command.” In everything, by prayer, petition, with thanksgiving, the requests of you be made known unto God.”
There are four words in the New Testament for prayer. All four of them are right here. Here’s what I want you to know: when anxiety knocks on the door of your heart, let prayer answer it. But not just any kind of prayer. He is going to give you a very clear, using all four words, there is a specific way to pray that, when you are anxious, when you are fearful, when the stomach acid starts, when you are awake and can’t fall back to sleep, when you have these scenarios where you’re projecting into the future how terrible and what is going to happen and at your job, and your kids aren’t going to turn out right, and this is going to happen, and your marriage will never get better, and this thing at work is never going to change, and the health issue is always going to go from bad to worse – once you start down that track, there is a kind and there is a way to pray that the Spirit of God will go, Whoo. Hush.

In fact, notice what the promise is. The promise is that when you pray, petition, with thanksgiving, and you make your requests known to God, the peace of God that is beyond human understanding, will guard your heart and your thoughts, or literally, your minds – circle the word guard.

If you have ever seen the little commercial – I like this commercial – it’s the one where the guy is in the bank and the robbers come in and everyone is on the floor and the lady looks up and says, “Do something!” He goes, “Oh, I’m not a security guard. I’m a security monitor. I’m just monitoring. There’s a problem here.”

That’s this word. He says: when you pray like this, the Spirit of God that gives you a sense of peace and calm will literally guard the deepest parts of your life and your thinking. And, in fact, what we are going to learn is there are times when you lose your peace, when you realize there is something wrong, that actually, it’s like the red light on the dashboard of the car and what it tells you is that there is something wrong under the hood.

When you lose your peace, there is something about your abiding in Christ, your focus, your mind, your trust is off of Christ and on to something else and your loss of peace is like – and it says He will act as like an arbitrator, a monitor, so that you can get back in line.

With that, let’s get to the application. Negatively, there’s a command. We have looked at them negatively and positively. You’ll notice there are four key words that it’s the “how,” and there’s the promise, which is the “why.”

In your notes where it says “negatively,” I would like you to write: stop worrying about anything. Part of how our minds work, we see it, we say it, we write it, it sticks. I just saw a study by Harvard University recently that talked about those graduates that actually wrote down their goals were eighty percent more likely to succeed.

I want you to write down: stop worrying. Don’t just sit here and listen. You’re not passive. This is about your life today in this moment.

Second, where it says, “positive command,” I want you to write: pray about everything. Because we are going to – here’s the thing – some of us have practiced being anxious most of our lives. We learned it from our parents, almost everyone does it, we think that what you do when you worry is you take a pill for this, a pill for that. When you feel uptight, we will turn on the TV.

For others, when you lose your peace, you go shopping. For others, it has been really tough and you’re uptight about things and you wonder and, so, one glass of wine made you feel a little bit better and about three makes you feel a lot better.

Some of you had a prescription for some back pain and when you get uptight now, you actually take some of those pills, even though your back pain was months ago gone and better.

For others, some of us, it’s maybe a little bit more healthy, you just work. The moment you feel anxious, you just start working because you feel like you’re in control. At the heart of anxiety is life is out of control and I can’t handle this, so you do something that gives you pseudo-peace.

For many of us, it’s just a trip to the refrigerator when we’re not really in need of calories, but there is something about a bag of chips, a bag of popcorn, some chocolate that just makes you feel better, for what? Right? Fifteen to thirty minutes.

There are all kinds of ways that we address our anxiety – most of them aren’t very helpful. And then when we do a lot of those things, some of you log on and surf, some of you spend mindless hours, not because you want to or need to, because it’s just a distraction.

Is there something wrong, inherently, with doing some of those things? Absolutely not. But when I am doing that because what I am really trying to do is get my mind off of this gnawing anxiety, you’re not letting the peace of Christ rule in your heart and in your mind.

My confession is – my anxiety – ESPN. Somehow, watching other people play games makes me feel better for a half hour. Or get into my work or go work out. Bad, evil? I don’t think so. But when I do it, instead of letting prayer answer the door and let God work in my life and my heart, neither wise nor profitable.

Now, what I want you to see is that prayer answers the door, but it’s a very specific kind of prayer.

Like you, I have lots of challenges with anxiety. I think we all do.

And I think God would say, Okay, I want to teach you a way to pray. Because I have felt very anxious and, Oh God, help, help, help! God, God, God! And then I just pick up the backpack and put the burdens right back on.

So, I want to walk through these four specific words. You practice this and you do not have to be anxious.

The first word is prayer. It’s the most common word of the New Testament: in prayer. And it’s the idea of turning in the moment you feel anxious, it’s turning my thoughts and my feelings upward. It’s getting an upward focus. It’s adoration. It’s pausing and recognizing: wait a second. In the midst of these struggles right now, I want to get my focus on: who is God? Worship.

I actually have more than a few struggles with anxiety. I tend to juggle a few more balls than I can really juggle, trying to accomplish more than I am really capable of. And as a result of that, I don’t know about you, but you can wake up and if you wake up and as you’re waking up, the first thoughts in your mind are, What about this? And what about that meeting? And what about this? And one of my kids over here.

And then if you get up out of bed, wash your face, and if you pick up your phone, Oh my gosh. DOW is down seventy-seven points and I’ll just check my email while I’m walking to make coffee. Oh my gosh. You know what you’re setting yourself up for? Disaster. The first thing you need to do in the morning, every morning, either Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer.

Before I get out of bed I realize, God, if I don’t see life through Your lens, I am going to be in trouble, because I know this life is going to bring more challenges, just the ones I know about – they are more than I can handle.

And it’s interesting, when Jesus taught His disciples to pray, what did He say? “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father,’” oh. So, in the midst of all the craziness of the world, the One who created all that there is, the One who sent His Son to die for you and rise from the dead, the One who is the sovereign King who is all-wise, all-powerful, and all-knowing of every circumstance real, possible, and potential – He is your Papa? And say to Him, “…who art in heaven.”

You’re not pulled into this or that, You are the Creator. You’re in control. Holy is Your name. I can know a hundred percent of the time that God will never lie to me, God is always going to be pure, His intentions…

So, it’s this moment where you pause and you get a high, clear view of God. When anxiety knocks at the door of your heart, let prayer answer it. And the first prayer is worship and adoration.

So, I have a habit. As I am lying in bed, I either pray slowly through Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer, or parts of it. And then I don’t look at my phone. I don’t check my email.

I have coffee already made, because that’s a very important part of my early morning. And the dog and I are friends, so I let the dog out. And every morning, I take my cup of coffee and my dog is out running around and I stand on my patio like I did this morning and I look up and I see these stars.

And I force myself out loud, Almighty, Ever-living Creator. Little people like me have stared at this sky for thousands and thousands of years and You created them and this is just the Milky Way. There are a hundred, maybe two hundred billion stars in this little galaxy. And they didn’t know there’s another couple hundred billion galaxies and the One that placed these in the sky, at this moment, on this day – I am the object of Your affection.

I don’t know how to pull off or what is going to happen, but I am going to go in and I am going to talk to You and read what You want to say to me. But I am going with You, the Creator of the world, at my back.

Here’s what I can tell you: as you get a really big God, you will get really small problems. If you have really big problems, you have a very small God. See, what happens, what the “take thought of,” it means: to focus on; get obsessed with. Okay, here’s a problem. Okay, maybe eighty-five percent or ninety percent of your marriage is pretty good or at work, you really do have a good job but there is a supervisor. Or maybe you are single but you have some really good friends but whatever the part that really makes you anxious or there is uncertainty, here’s what you do: you focus on it and you focus on it and you focus on it and you focus on it and you focus on it.

And pretty soon, you look at all of life through this thing, this anxiety. And then when, as you look at all of life, the way we’re made is then your emotions and your physiology begin to respond and then your body and your world gets messed up because you think this is the world.

He says when anxiety knocks at the door of your heart, whoo, let prayer answer it. And the first thing you do: this is the God that can deal with that. You think God can heal someone of cancer? We have seen it. You think God can give people grace to go through cancer? You think God can actually take someone that you love to heaven and you recover from it and be okay, knowing you’re going to see them later? You bet. You think God can give you a new job if you don’t have it? You think God can get into the heart of one of your kids that’s not walking with God? Do you think God can…? Of course He can! Intellectually you believe that.

But [you don’t] experience it until you worship Him. Put a little “A” to the left of where it says prayer and circle it and I’ll tell you why later.

The second is petition. This is the second most common word in the New Testament. It is focusing on your need. It’s a prayer that expresses my need or my want before I ask. It’s a sense that I – it’s the awareness that I am unable, that I have limitations in this situation that: I need You, God. I can’t handle this.

Much of anxiety is about: here’s a problem or here’s an issue and the resource you unconsciously look to is, “What am I going to do? What am I going to do? How do I fix it? How do I fix it?” And the more it’s overwhelming or the more it’s out of your control, and the more you realize you can’t fix it, guess what happens – it just grows and grows and grows.

And so, the kind of prayer that answers the door when anxiety knocks and causes you to run to your Father is, first, adoration. And this is confession. God, I can’t handle this. I don’t know what to do in this marriage. I have tried everything under the sun. I can’t get one of my kid’s attention for the life of me. You know what? Unless you transfer my supervisor to Siberia, I don’t – he doesn’t like me. She doesn’t like me. I feel like…

I can’t handle this. Lord, I need You. You know what that is called in Scripture? Humility. Dependency. And you know what? You can’t cast your cares on Jesus as long as you are holding on to them and assuming that someway, somehow, my ability, my moxie, my personality, my brains – I am going to solve this.

And so the kind of prayer is, first, worship and then confession. And you say, You care for me. I can’t handle this. And then it positions you to begin to ask Him, to really ask Him for help.

The third word is thanksgiving. It’s a very interesting compound word. It means: to be good or well and combined with grace. I love one commentator. He says, “The way this is phrased, it’s like sprinkling like salt and pepper into the rest of your prayers where you are constantly giving thanks.”
I find myself, when I look at the stars or when I am worshipping God, all of a sudden He will just bring to my mind, You’ve got almost forty years with your wife after all that you guys have been through. And think about that day when your one son was in ICU or you thought this was an impossible problem. God, thanks.
So, I’m worshipping but I just fall into thanksgiving. Or how about when you are confessing, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. You know what God reminds me? Hey, remember two years ago or three months ago when it was an impossible situation and you couldn’t do it – do you remember what I did? Oh, yeah! You were faithful. Thank You!

In fact, let me show you a little tool and I know some of you are not writers, you’re not verbal processors. I don’t think people need to keep a journal to be godly, okay? But if you’re a little ADD. In services like this, sometimes, we say, “I want to ask you a question, but don’t raise your hand.” Can I try the opposite? I am going to ask you a question and I am going to ask you to raise your hand.

Does anybody else except me, does your mind wander when you pray? Oh my gosh. It’s just – and then I feel so guilty. I’ve been out in the stars, I have worshipped Him, and I’m reading the Bible, God, I can’t do this! And then my mind is all the way over to here and then it’s over to here and then it’s over to here. Oh.

And what I realize is I can’t concentrate very well. So, when it comes to – I am just – and then I get paralyzed and then I feel bad that I can’t concentrate. And then I tell God I’m sorry. And then it’s like, confession, sometimes I just give up. And the anxiety doesn’t leave.

And here’s what I have learned to do. I have learned when I am going through that, I realize that anxiety and biblical prayer cannot coexist.

And anxiety can’t live with thankfulness.

So, for example, I just couldn’t concentrate. Lord, I am overly aware of what I am not, in varying degrees of what awaits me. I was away for a few days and what I returned – I had – right? Anxiety. Two hundred emails. Three meetings. Holy Father, please forgive me for my self-focus and please renew my heart and my mind. I am viewing things through a negative lens and it is producing negative emotions.

And so, this is what I did. Thank You for the rest, the walks, the time to read, relax, and laugh with Theresa. Thank You for Theresa, that she said she is feeling better physically than she has in a long time. Thank You for the long and beautiful pool to swim and rehab my back. Thank You that I rarely had to take Advil for the last few days. 

Can you imagine thanking God for no Advil? Here’s what I’m trying to get: this is how life really works! It’s in the details of life where you say, well, you know what? That’s big! Thank You for the inside encouragement to listen to the book by John Ortberg, “The Life You Have Always Wanted,” and the resilience and encouragement it has brought to my heart. Thank You for the God impulse to help people that we have met on the streets that are poor.

Thank You that despite all the unpleasantness I see in my life, my mistakes in leadership, personal struggles and failures, as a Christian, as a husband, as a father, and as a leader, that You love me, delight in me, and have exceeding mercy upon me and my family, my life, my ministry, and that You’re not surprised or shocked that I don’t measure up. You remember, even when I forget, that I am but dust. I cannot, in this life, measure up. I am need of Your mercy and Your grace every moment of every day.

The truth is, many of the things that bother me about me, they bother me because they’re true. Anybody else have that?

And so, but, you know what? When I got done, I was at peace. See, part of all your psyche stuff is: I don’t measure up, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got…

Sometimes just being honest, and you know what? This is who God is. I have great need. Thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You. I am going to thank my way into the presence of God.

And then the last word is a powerful word. And the last word, he talks about is, so, what do you do? It’s requests. You outline your specific needs. This is like, you know why some of you don’t experience much of God? You pray prayers like this, Lord, bless my family. Help me have a good day. Help my children. Help me someday, someway, somehow to meet someone. Lord, cause me to grow spiritually, somehow, someway. That’s like my wife sending me to the grocery and say, “Could you buy some food that we will all like and that I will cook well?” She would go, “Oh my gosh!”

Whenever she sends me and if she was here she would say she doesn’t send me very often. Man, I’ve got a list and then it’s like, here’s the label, it’s got to be organic, it has got to be this. She wants very specific things.

Once you have: this is who God is, this is your need, I am thanking Him – what do you want? God, I ask You specifically to move in my supervisor’s heart to give me favor with him and that I would have great affirmation in this meeting.

God, I am asking You for “x” amount of dollars because this is what is happening in our family situation and I need that. God, I am asking You for the best doctor in all the Bay Area. Help me get, bring someone in contact, how do we deal with this cancer?

Write specific things and expect specific things and then, like a grocery list, give them to the God who is all-wise, all-knowing, and you’re His son, His daughter – and He will help you.

My little, the next thing I do in my journal is, this is my – I pray, once I have gotten there, these are all little boxes. I turn all my concerns, all my anxiety into prayers.

And here’s a box, there it is. Here’s a box, here it is. And I am turning them into requests. And this is a month old. All but about two have check marks next to the box. You know what I am experiencing? God is alive in my life. God is showing up. I’ll guarantee He is showing up in your life, you just don’t know it. You don’t track it. You don’t pray specifically.

Here is what He is saying: when anxiety knocks at the door of your heart, let prayer, this kind of prayer – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication – let prayer answer it and then run into your Father’s arms. Run into your Father’s arms.

It’s like, remember for some of us, when you had small kids or some of you who have small kids? When they have a bad dream, what do they always do? They’re four; they’re three. They have a bad dream. They get up. They run and what do they do? They are at your bedside. What do they want to do? They want to get in bed with you? So, what do you do? Open the covers and you go, “Oh brother.” Because they take up the whole bed. And then they lay next to you and thirty seconds later, what do you hear? [Deep breathing noises]

You think that’s an accident? See, they think that their parent loves them, is in control, and it’s a safe place, and they are at peace. And the God of the universe says, Come. Come. Stop fretting. Stop worrying. Stop trying to figure out how you can solve it all.

In fact, the promise here: peace and anxiety cannot – write the word – coexist. Peace and anxiety can’t coexist. Second, anxiety and biblical prayer cannot coexist.

Now, I want to give you a little warning because I hope some of you are going, Wow, now okay, I get it. I asked you to put an “A.” “A” – okay, anxiety is coming into my life. “A” – adoration. The next, put the little letter “C” next to that one, under the petition. Confession. “T” for thanksgiving. And then “S” – supplication, what I am actually going to ask. So, A-C-T-S. So, it’s just a little “ACTS” – this is my – when anxiety knocks at the door of my heart, I am going to let an “ACTS” kind of prayer – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication – I am going to let it answer. And I am going to run into my Father’s arms.

Now, here’s the deal. If you never played golf or if you never went bowling, if you never played an instrument, or if you did it thirty-five years ago, would you expect to go and roll a three hundred or shoot par? Or would you expect it is a skill to learn about, a skill to practice, a skill to develop, and that over time, you would get better and better and better and better?

You don’t have to live an anxious life, but you have built and I have built lifelong habit patterns to respond to anxiety in ways that are very dysfunctional and very painful and they are bad for you, your soul, your relationship with God, your family, and with other people.

So, what I just described, you’re going to have to go into training and begin to practice. So, when you feel peace leaving because, by the way, you can do all four of those kind of prayers in about three or four or five minutes if – right? You can take a break.

I have had situations where I have been in a situation and I am anxious like this and I don’t know what to do. “Excuse me, I’ve got to go to the bathroom.” I have gone to the bathroom and while I’m washing my hands, God, help me to remember, and I’ll just walk through that and ask the peace of Christ, because, I need Your power. I need to abide in You. I need Your peace and Your power. And Jesus said He has given it to us freely.

To summarize on the very back, biblical prayer is God’s antidote to anxiety. It’s simple and, yet, profound. Biblical prayer is the antidote to anxiety. Every time you feel anxious this week, here’s the word picture, when – can you fill it in even without me saying? When anxiety pounds at the door of your heart, let – Father, forgive them, they know not what they do – okay. Let’s try that again. That’s the most unaffirming response to someone speaking I have ever had in my whole life.

And I know you were deep in thought. Okay. Are you ready? Okay. Let’s try this again. When anxiety pounds at the door of your heart, let prayer – oh, they are beautiful, Lord. “…answer it as you run into your Father’s arms.”

What I understand is there might be some people that grew up like me is if God is not your Father, if you have never received Him as your Savior, this doesn’t work. Because these promises aren’t for people outside of Christ.

And so, the prayer that relieves the biggest anxiety, it was my most amazing experience, even though I had been to church, even though I intellectually believed in God, I didn’t realize I needed to turn from my sin, my self-will, and running my life and I needed to turn and say, Lord Jesus, I believe that You came from heaven, that You are in fact God and You died upon the cross. And as You hung upon the cross, You paid for my sin and You covered or atoned for my sin. And what You have said is that as many as believe and would invite You into their heart and life, You would literally take up residence and that’s how Your peace starts.

If you have never done that, we would love to help you on your journey to make that decision. Because He brought you here today because you matter and He loves you.
When Jesus taught His disciples to pray, what did He say? “When you pray, say, ‘Our Father,’” oh. So, in the midst of all the craziness of the world, the One who created all that there is, the One who sent His Son to die for you and rise from the dead, the One who is the sovereign King who is all-wise, all-powerful, and all-knowing of every circumstance real, possible, and potential – He is your Papa? And say to Him, “…who art in heaven.”

You’re not pulled into this or that, You are the Creator. You’re in control. Holy is Your name. I can know a hundred percent of the time that God will never lie to me, God is always going to be pure, His intentions…

So, it’s this moment where you pause and you get a high, clear view of God. When anxiety knocks at the door of your heart, let prayer answer it. And the first prayer is worship and adoration.

So, I have a habit. As I am lying in bed, I either pray slowly through Psalm 23 or the Lord’s Prayer, or parts of it. And then I don’t look at my phone. I don’t check my email.

I have coffee already made, because that’s a very important part of my early morning. And the dog and I are friends, so I let the dog out. And every morning, I take my cup of coffee and my dog is out running around and I stand on my patio like I did this morning and I look up and I see these stars.

And I force myself out loud, Almighty, Ever-living Creator. Little people like me have stared at this sky for thousands and thousands of years and You created them and this is just the Milky Way. There are a hundred, maybe two hundred billion stars in this little galaxy. And they didn’t know there’s another couple hundred billion galaxies and the One that placed these in the sky, at this moment, on this day – I am the object of Your affection.

I don’t know how to pull off or what is going to happen, but I am going to go in and I am going to talk to You and read what You want to say to me. But I am going with You, the Creator of the world, at my back.

Here’s what I can tell you: as you get a really big God, you will get really small problems. If you have really big problems, you have a very small God. See, what happens, what the “take thought of,” it means: to focus on; get obsessed with. Okay, here’s a problem. Okay, maybe eighty-five percent or ninety percent of your marriage is pretty good or at work, you really do have a good job but there is a supervisor. Or maybe you are single but you have some really good friends but whatever the part that really makes you anxious or there is uncertainty, here’s what you do: you focus on it and you focus on it and you focus on it and you focus on it and you focus on it.

And pretty soon, you look at all of life through this thing, this anxiety. And then when, as you look at all of life, the way we’re made is then your emotions and your physiology begin to respond and then your body and your world gets messed up because you think this is the world.

He says when anxiety knocks at the door of your heart, whoo, let prayer answer it. And the first thing you do: this is the God that can deal with that. You think God can heal someone of cancer? We have seen it. You think God can give people grace to go through cancer? You think God can actually take someone that you love to heaven and you recover from it and be okay, knowing you’re going to see them later? You bet. You think God can give you a new job if you don’t have it? You think God can get into the heart of one of your kids that’s not walking with God? Do you think God can…? Of course He can! Intellectually you believe that.

But [you don’t] experience it until you worship Him. Put a little “A” to the left of where it says prayer and circle it and I’ll tell you why later.

The second is petition. This is the second most common word in the New Testament. It is focusing on your need. It’s a prayer that expresses my need or my want before I ask. It’s a sense that I – it’s the awareness that I am unable, that I have limitations in this situation that: I need You, God. I can’t handle this.

Much of anxiety is about: here’s a problem or here’s an issue and the resource you unconsciously look to is, “What am I going to do? What am I going to do? How do I fix it? How do I fix it?” And the more it’s overwhelming or the more it’s out of your control, and the more you realize you can’t fix it, guess what happens – it just grows and grows and grows.

And so, the kind of prayer that answers the door when anxiety knocks and causes you to run to your Father is, first, adoration. And this is confession. God, I can’t handle this. I don’t know what to do in this marriage. I have tried everything under the sun. I can’t get one of my kid’s attention for the life of me. You know what? Unless you transfer my supervisor to Siberia, I don’t – he doesn’t like me. She doesn’t like me. I feel like…

I can’t handle this. Lord, I need You. You know what that is called in Scripture? Humility. Dependency. And you know what? You can’t cast your cares on Jesus as long as you are holding on to them and assuming that someway, somehow, my ability, my moxie, my personality, my brains – I am going to solve this.

And so the kind of prayer is, first, worship and then confession. And you say, You care for me. I can’t handle this. And then it positions you to begin to ask Him, to really ask Him for help.

The third word is thanksgiving. It’s a very interesting compound word. It means: to be good or well and combined with grace. I love one commentator. He says, “The way this is phrased, it’s like sprinkling like salt and pepper into the rest of your prayers where you are constantly giving thanks.”
I find myself, when I look at the stars or when I am worshipping God, all of a sudden He will just bring to my mind, You’ve got almost forty years with your wife after all that you guys have been through. And think about that day when your one son was in ICU or you thought this was an impossible problem. God, thanks.
So, I’m worshipping but I just fall into thanksgiving. Or how about when you are confessing, I can’t do this. I can’t do this. I can’t do this. You know what God reminds me? Hey, remember two years ago or three months ago when it was an impossible situation and you couldn’t do it – do you remember what I did? Oh, yeah! You were faithful. Thank You!

In fact, let me show you a little tool and I know some of you are not writers, you’re not verbal processors. I don’t think people need to keep a journal to be godly, okay? But if you’re a little ADD. In services like this, sometimes, we say, “I want to ask you a question, but don’t raise your hand.” Can I try the opposite? I am going to ask you a question and I am going to ask you to raise your hand.

Does anybody else except me, does your mind wander when you pray? Oh my gosh. It’s just – and then I feel so guilty. I’ve been out in the stars, I have worshipped Him, and I’m reading the Bible, God, I can’t do this! And then my mind is all the way over to here and then it’s over to here and then it’s over to here. Oh.

And what I realize is I can’t concentrate very well. So, when it comes to – I am just – and then I get paralyzed and then I feel bad that I can’t concentrate. And then I tell God I’m sorry. And then it’s like, confession, sometimes I just give up. And the anxiety doesn’t leave.

And here’s what I have learned to do. I have learned when I am going through that, I realize that anxiety and biblical prayer cannot coexist.

And anxiety can’t live with thankfulness.

So, for example, I just couldn’t concentrate. Lord, I am overly aware of what I am not, in varying degrees of what awaits me. I was away for a few days and what I returned – I had – right? Anxiety. Two hundred emails. Three meetings. Holy Father, please forgive me for my self-focus and please renew my heart and my mind. I am viewing things through a negative lens and it is producing negative emotions.

And so, this is what I did. Thank You for the rest, the walks, the time to read, relax, and laugh with Theresa. Thank You for Theresa, that she said she is feeling better physically than she has in a long time. Thank You for the long and beautiful pool to swim and rehab my back. Thank You that I rarely had to take Advil for the last few days. 

Can you imagine thanking God for no Advil? Here’s what I’m trying to get: this is how life really works! It’s in the details of life where you say, well, you know what? That’s big! Thank You for the inside encouragement to listen to the book by John Ortberg, “The Life You Have Always Wanted,” and the resilience and encouragement it has brought to my heart. Thank You for the God impulse to help people that we have met on the streets that are poor.

Thank You that despite all the unpleasantness I see in my life, my mistakes in leadership, personal struggles and failures, as a Christian, as a husband, as a father, and as a leader, that You love me, delight in me, and have exceeding mercy upon me and my family, my life, my ministry, and that You’re not surprised or shocked that I don’t measure up. You remember, even when I forget, that I am but dust. I cannot, in this life, measure up. I am need of Your mercy and Your grace every moment of every day.

The truth is, many of the things that bother me about me, they bother me because they’re true. Anybody else have that?

And so, but, you know what? When I got done, I was at peace. See, part of all your psyche stuff is: I don’t measure up, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got…

Sometimes just being honest, and you know what? This is who God is. I have great need. Thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You, thank You. I am going to thank my way into the presence of God.

And then the last word is a powerful word. And the last word, he talks about is, so, what do you do? It’s requests. You outline your specific needs. This is like, you know why some of you don’t experience much of God? You pray prayers like this, Lord, bless my family. Help me have a good day. Help my children. Help me someday, someway, somehow to meet someone. Lord, cause me to grow spiritually, somehow, someway. That’s like my wife sending me to the grocery and say, “Could you buy some food that we will all like and that I will cook well?” She would go, “Oh my gosh!”

Whenever she sends me and if she was here she would say she doesn’t send me very often. Man, I’ve got a list and then it’s like, here’s the label, it’s got to be organic, it has got to be this. She wants very specific things.

Once you have: this is who God is, this is your need, I am thanking Him – what do you want? God, I ask You specifically to move in my supervisor’s heart to give me favor with him and that I would have great affirmation in this meeting.

God, I am asking You for “x” amount of dollars because this is what is happening in our family situation and I need that. God, I am asking You for the best doctor in all the Bay Area. Help me get, bring someone in contact, how do we deal with this cancer?

Write specific things and expect specific things and then, like a grocery list, give them to the God who is all-wise, all-knowing, and you’re His son, His daughter – and He will help you.

My little, the next thing I do in my journal is, this is my – I pray, once I have gotten there, these are all little boxes. I turn all my concerns, all my anxiety into prayers.

And here’s a box, there it is. Here’s a box, here it is. And I am turning them into requests. And this is a month old. All but about two have check marks next to the box. You know what I am experiencing? God is alive in my life. God is showing up. I’ll guarantee He is showing up in your life, you just don’t know it. You don’t track it. You don’t pray specifically.

Here is what He is saying: when anxiety knocks at the door of your heart, let prayer, this kind of prayer – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, supplication – let prayer answer it and then run into your Father’s arms. Run into your Father’s arms.

It’s like, remember for some of us, when you had small kids or some of you who have small kids? When they have a bad dream, what do they always do? They’re four; they’re three. They have a bad dream. They get up. They run and what do they do? They are at your bedside. What do they want to do? They want to get in bed with you? So, what do you do? Open the covers and you go, “Oh brother.” Because they take up the whole bed. And then they lay next to you and thirty seconds later, what do you hear? [Deep breathing noises]

You think that’s an accident? See, they think that their parent loves them, is in control, and it’s a safe place, and they are at peace. And the God of the universe says, Come. Come. Stop fretting. Stop worrying. Stop trying to figure out how you can solve it all.

In fact, the promise here: peace and anxiety cannot – write the word – coexist. Peace and anxiety can’t coexist. Second, anxiety and biblical prayer cannot coexist.

Now, I want to give you a little warning because I hope some of you are going, Wow, now okay, I get it. I asked you to put an “A.” “A” – okay, anxiety is coming into my life. “A” – adoration. The next, put the little letter “C” next to that one, under the petition. Confession. “T” for thanksgiving. And then “S” – supplication, what I am actually going to ask. So, A-C-T-S. So, it’s just a little “ACTS” – this is my – when anxiety knocks at the door of my heart, I am going to let an “ACTS” kind of prayer – adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication – I am going to let it answer. And I am going to run into my Father’s arms.

Now, here’s the deal. If you never played golf or if you never went bowling, if you never played an instrument, or if you did it thirty-five years ago, would you expect to go and roll a three hundred or shoot par? Or would you expect it is a skill to learn about, a skill to practice, a skill to develop, and that over time, you would get better and better and better and better?

You don’t have to live an anxious life, but you have built and I have built lifelong habit patterns to respond to anxiety in ways that are very dysfunctional and very painful and they are bad for you, your soul, your relationship with God, your family, and with other people.

So, what I just described, you’re going to have to go into training and begin to practice. So, when you feel peace leaving because, by the way, you can do all four of those kind of prayers in about three or four or five minutes if – right? You can take a break.

I have had situations where I have been in a situation and I am anxious like this and I don’t know what to do. “Excuse me, I’ve got to go to the bathroom.” I have gone to the bathroom and while I’m washing my hands, God, help me to remember, and I’ll just walk through that and ask the peace of Christ, because, I need Your power. I need to abide in You. I need Your peace and Your power. And Jesus said He has given it to us freely.

To summarize on the very back, biblical prayer is God’s antidote to anxiety. It’s simple and, yet, profound. Biblical prayer is the antidote to anxiety. Every time you feel anxious this week, here’s the word picture, when – can you fill it in even without me saying? When anxiety pounds at the door of your heart, let – Father, forgive them, they know not what they do – okay. Let’s try that again. That’s the most unaffirming response to someone speaking I have ever had in my whole life.

And I know you were deep in thought. Okay. Are you ready? Okay. Let’s try this again. When anxiety pounds at the door of your heart, let prayer – oh, they are beautiful, Lord. “…answer it as you run into your Father’s arms.”

What I understand is there might be some people that grew up like me is if God is not your Father, if you have never received Him as your Savior, this doesn’t work. Because these promises aren’t for people outside of Christ.

And so, the prayer that relieves the biggest anxiety, it was my most amazing experience, even though I had been to church, even though I intellectually believed in God, I didn’t realize I needed to turn from my sin, my self-will, and running my life and I needed to turn and say, Lord Jesus, I believe that You came from heaven, that You are in fact God and You died upon the cross. And as You hung upon the cross, You paid for my sin and You covered or atoned for my sin. And what You have said is that as many as believe and would invite You into their heart and life, You would literally take up residence and that’s how Your peace starts.

If you have never done that, we would love to help you on your journey to make that decision. Because He brought you here today because you matter and He loves you.