, ,

The email was brief – an urgent request for prayer for my friend’s husband Bill (not his real name.)

“Last week, Bill’s Chicago- based boss said that she wanted to set up a meeting with him for tomorrow to discuss changes in his group.  She’s never done this before but she is flying in to meet with BIll only.  This could mean a layoff, demotion, relocation, or different job. God has given us peace this past week, but the unknown is uncomfortable. When Bill asked her if he should worry, she said no.”

I quickly responded that Mike and I would be praying for Bill’s job situation, but as I reread her message I felt my stomach begin to churn. Bill is highly-placed in management and he’s also middle-aged. Why would the boss fly across the country to “discuss changes” if it weren’t bad news? The more I thought about it, the more worried I became on his behalf. Maybe the boss told him not to worry, but his friends certainly could!

WORRY. Some of us seem genetically wired to worry, don’t we? Recent research reported in the New York Times indicates that a predisposition for fretting is literally in our DNA.

In a sermon he preached years ago, Mike used a definition of fretting that went something like this: “Continual fretting about a situation you cannot control carves a mental rut. The more you fret, the deeper the rut grows until it becomes a channel into which all other thoughts drain.”  

Most Christ-followers like me who are predisposed to worry are well acquainted with the Apostle Paul’s instructions to the people of Philippi: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Phil. 4:6)

Paul, who was no stranger to adversity, knew that anxiety is an emotion that quickly ramps out of control and overtakes life. Rather than barking at us to “Stop worrying!” he instead offers a practical solution: petition the One who has the power to change the situation. And harness the power of praise while you’re doing it.

And what’s the point of a petition? The name attached to it, of course.

Do I requisition my friends when I need prayer-support? Sure do. But when it comes right down to it, petitions sent God-ward only need one name attached: the name of Jesus. That’s why scripture teaches us to pray in his name: “By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see.” Acts 4:16

I think it was former president Harry Truman who once commented that 9 out of every 10 things we worry about run off the road before they get to us.

 That’s sure been true for me. It’s a little like the way I bowl. I think my ball is going to strike the pins but most of the time it veers off into the gutter.

So what happened to our friend Bill’s job? Absolutely nothing.

 Prayer is worthwhile but all that worry?  Totally worthless.