How to Pray, Part 1
Prayer is the practical prescription for the problem of anxiety. And Paul was specific about what ought to go into our prayers: "In everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God" (Philippians 4:6). Let's break that verse down into its constituent parts: prayer, supplication, thanksgiving, and making requests. We'll unpack the first two today, and the others tomorrow.
The typical Greek New Testament word for prayer means worship or devotion. That tells us there's a time for crying out to God, but first there must be worship. In other words, there's a protocol for entering into God's presence—sort of like with human royalty. You can't just barge into Buckingham Palace and start chatting with the queen of England. To show respect for her authority, you need to know how to enter her presence, where to stand, what gestures to make, and how to exit. If that's true of a human ruler, how much more is it of God?
Your privilege as God's adopted child is to go before Him whenever you want, but there's still a right way to do it. Note how Jesus recommended we begin our prayers: "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Luke 11:2). That's worship. Why does it matter? Because worship and worry cannot coexist in the same heart. You focus on one, and the other diminishes. Choose worship over worry, and your worries will shrink.
Supplication is a word that implies strong crying, even begging. It's more emotional, engaging the heart's deepest desires and asking God for something relentlessly—as in, save-your-child's-life relentless. This is more familiar territory for most of us. The default setting of our prayer life is pleading with God when something goes wrong.
Jesus touched on this when He spoke of a man who went to see a friend at midnight to ask for three loaves of bread to feed an unexpected guest (see Luke 11:5-13). Hospitality is central to Middle Eastern culture, so the idea of being caught empty-handed when you have a guest is anxiety-inducing. Jesus said the friend didn't get out of bed to give him the bread because of their friendship but because of the man's persistence. That's the idea of supplication, of asking wholeheartedly.
God wants you to come to Him about everything—but He also wants you to first remember who it is you're approaching: your heavenly Father, Almighty God, Maker of heaven and earth. When it comes to overcoming an anxious mind, there's no better place to start than there.