Anxiety is at an all-time high with never before documented levels. Not only this, but it feels as if we are experiencing division and polarization like I’ve never seen before! People are drawing sides on just about anything.
Did you know that the root word for anxiety in Greek, “merizo” means “to divide?” Do you wonder why it feels like there is so much division in our world? Anxiety causes division.
We are not at peace with one another on the outside because we are not being driven by peace on the inside.
On the inside, the opposite of peace is anxiety.
On the outside, the opposite of peace is war.
The more anxiety we have on the inside will result in more division on the outside.
Not only is God’s peace available to us, but the apostle Paul says that Christians already have it. It’s one of the fruits of the Spirit that is mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. These fruits are not things you need to attain to, but if God’s Spirit lives inside of you, you already have them.
If God’s peace is not only available, but already inside of us, then why doesn’t it feel like we are at peace today? And what can we do to experience the peace of God today?
The answer, believe it or not, is not all that complicated.
New research from over 1200 participants in our FREE RLC Assessment tell us that 92% of people somewhat to strongly agree that a particular habit in their lives brings more peace into their lives.
What is this habit?
This data shouldn’t surprise us. If we didn’t take the “peace that passes understanding” verse out of context (like I did earlier), we would see in the verse directly before it these incredible instructions to combat anxiety:
Paul is reminding us that to combat anxiety there is a tool called prayer that Christians have and can exercise at any time at any place.
If you are not feeling at peace right now, or you feel major unrest in your church right now, rather than doubling down on your own strength, what if you spent time praying to God? When is the last time you connected with God in prayer? Do you have a daily set aside time? If peace comes so easily through this habit, it would be a very wise investment of our time to not only include daily prayer in our lives, but to encourage this practice in the churches that we lead.
The fact is that if we are not regularly talking and listening to God, then we will be listening to the world. And with the world comes all sorts of ways the enemy can speak to you. And the more you listen to the enemy, the more anxiety you will experience. The devil’s language is anxiety and God’s language is peace. Never have I spent time with God and been more anxious. Never have I spent time in the devil’s playground and been more at peace.
And what’s amazing about this particular habit for me is it’s not one that I ultimately feel victorious in. Prayer has been, and still is, one of the hardest habits for me to stay disciplined in. One of the best things I’ve learned when it comes to prayer is not how I pray, but simply that I pray. Like in the gym, the more I put in the reps, the stronger I become. Even on days I don’t feel it, just showing up is the win. The more I put in the prayer reps, the more peace I have.
We all need to be reminded that the reason that prayer is so peace-giving is because of who we are praying to. We are not praying to a distant, lifeless God who is not all that powerful. We are praying to a God who can do something about what we are praying about. He can remove our anxiety and give us His peace.
Don’t believe me? Check out these two verses:
This is Peter speaking. Peter’s a fisherman. I like this language. Cast it on Him. Throw it out in there. Don’t hold back.
But this isn’t the only time casting anxiety is mentioned. King David mentions this in Psalm 55:22: Cast your burden on the Lord, and he will sustain you.
Peter tells us to cast our anxiety onto God because He cares for us. He loves us.
David tells us to cast our anxiety onto God because He’ll sustain us. He’s powerful enough to take care of me.
We cast our anxiety on Him because He cares for me and He will take care of me.
2020 has been nothing but disruptive on the outside. But outside disruption doesn’t have to equate to inner disruption. As much as everything else has changed on the outside, God hasn’t changed. He still loves you. He still can take care of you.
As much as we want to make changes in this world on the outside, I’m convinced that the greatest difference we can make in this world isn’t by things that we do, but by prayers that we pray. We are limited in our power in what we can do. God’s power is unlimited. Rather than continuing to rely only on our own strength, what if we cast the burdens and anxiety in this world into the hands of the one who can truly do something!
Don’t hear me wrong: I believe it’s vitally important for churches to have solutions that help people with anxiety. I believe this is one of the great opportunities that has arisen in church. The more anxiety that comes, the more our answer of Jesus Christ is relevant to this world. And as important as ministries, programs, and strategies are to help combat anxiety and division, let’s not forget to teach on the biblical principle of prayer.
It’s smart not only from a spiritual perspective, but from merely an earthly perspective as well. If 92% of people experience more peace from this simple habit, prayer is the low-hanging fruit that can bring more peace to our world.
As a leader in your church, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I feel peace or anxiety?
- Am I praying regularly to God?
- Am I leading my church to a more consistent habit of prayer?
Here are two things you can do in the New Year to help your church practice this habit:
21 Days of Prayer
The last few years at our church we have led the year with 21 Days of Prayer. I highly encourage this practice which we modeled after The Church of the Highlands. It’s an intentional time to start the year by spending time in prayer to God. We give the year over to Him, ask for His wisdom and direction, and try to instill this habit into our lives by doing it every day for 21 days.
Prioritizing prayer is one of the 5 keystone habits of Jesus highlighted in our newest work Being Challenge. Keystone habits are habits that unintentionally spill over into other areas of our lives. With the peace that prayer brings, it’s clear why this would be a keystone habit. When we live by peace, and not by anxiety, of course it would have incredible benefits in the other aspects of our lives. Consider leading your church through this powerful 40-day experience where they will learn and practice the 5 keystone habits of Jesus, including prioritizing prayer.
I’m cheering for you. May the peace of God go with you!