Turn Anxiety, Restlessness into Prayer

By Joe LaGuardia

Because I love Zion, I will not keep still.  Because my heart yearns for Jerusalem, I cannot remain silent.  I will not stop praying for her until her righteousness shines like the dawn…O Jerusalem, I have posted watchmen on your walls; they will pray day and night, continually.  Take no rest, all you who pray to the Lord” (Isaiah 62:1, 6 NLT).

I have grown up in the church assuming that restlessness was not a good thing.  I have struggled with anxiety, and it comes out in various restless ways: fidgeting, pacing, reading everything in sight, moving about.  I have also resisted this anxiety in various ways: prayer, contemplation, meditation, Bible Study, relaxation techniques, vacations, and television.

But it has been a long journey and, after a dissertation on spiritual formation and many silent retreats, that restlessness is still difficult to ignore and remains just under the surface of my life.

Perhaps this restlessness is not something that is all that bad, however.  Maybe it is just as much a part of me as is God’s image in which I was created.  People say that God doesn’t make junk, so maybe that restlessness is a part of God’s design for me.

Recently, I was reading my Bible during my devotions and stumbled on some verses in Isaiah that caught my attention (62:1-6; see above).  This portion of Isaiah records a time when Israel was all but lost in exile.  There was judgment, but hope was on the way.  Destruction and diaspora were imminent, but God promised a new age when Israel would return to Jerusalem and live in peace among all nations.

Isaiah 62 speaks of restoration not by way of war, but by prayer.  God promises to set up watchmen who will pray “continually”.  It invites others to pray without rest, and stresses prayer as a way to keep God from resting too (v. 7).  Restlessness was not something to avoid, but to use on behalf of interceding for God’s people and the nation, for the culmination of God’s promises to come.

This I read in the New Spirit-Filled Life Study Bible.  The inspirational devotion related to this text states that Isaiah was “alert to the character and ways of God” as he takes “stock with a spirit of urgent restlessness, refusing to keep silent before God” (p. 883).  Restlessness, in short, encourages a “true Spirit of prayer.”

I never imagined that my restlessness–this unyielding demon with whom I’ve wrestled my whole life–may in fact be an angel urging me to pray for others, for God to act, and for revival in my own community and church.  Rather than rustling in the bed at night, perhaps I need to pray.  Instead of fidgeting, I should clasp my hands and bow my head to talk to God.  Rather than pacing, I should praise God for “delighting” in us and calling us his beloved (Isaiah 62:4).

It is a novel thought, and perhaps I’ll try it.  Are you restless?  If so, use it as fuel to pray.  You too may be the watchman or watchwoman that God has called to intercede on behalf of loved ones, neighbors, and the lost in your midst.

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The Power of Intercession and Prayer

By Joe LaGuardia

Some time ago I was anxious about issues related to church.  There were things on my mind that I had no control over, things that should not have worried me but did.  I was driving myself crazy, my wife crazy, and distracting my kids from family time.

It did not take long before the Holy Spirit woke me up early one morning.  There are few times I wake up earlier than 5:00 AM, and when the Holy Spirit wakes me up that early, I know I need to listen!  That kind of movement is qualitatively different, and there washes over me a particular–indescribable, really–spiritual manifestation that captures my attention and heart.

In that moment I dumped (for lack of a better word) everything before God.  It was a combination of robust prayer–of boldness, so to speak–and honesty.  I said in my spirit, “God, you handle this!  This is your church, your ministry.  My life is yours, and you’ve called me to this.  You deal with this.”

A few minutes later I fell back to sleep in a posture of rest and peace that I had not felt in a long time.

This event reminded me of the power of intercessory prayer.  It is a type of prayer we see in Isaiah 37, when one of God’s children had more than he can handle, and he needed to hand it over to God.

Isaiah 36 and 37 are chapters that come from a time when the Assyrian nation threatened the existence of Judah.  Assyria had conquered most of the Middle East; Israel and Egypt were next.  The Assyrian king, Sennacherib, threatened Judah’s King Hezekiah with a royal letter: “You know perfectly well what the kings of Assyria have done wherever they have gone.  They have completely destroyed everyone who stood in their way!”

Sennacherib went on to say that the gods of other nations did not come to the rescue, why should Hezekiah expect the God of Israel to be any different?

Upon receiving this letter, Hezekiah became anxious.  The threat against his nation was very real, and the Assyrians had threatened him personally!  But instead of running around wondering what to do, Hezekiah’s sought the Lord.  Scripture says that Hezekiah went to the Temple, spread the letter before the Lord, and interceded on behalf of the nation.

As a result, the Lord responded: “Because you prayed about King Sennacherib of Assyria, the Lord has spoken this word against him.”  God affirmed that Assyria was a mere pawn in a larger drama of salvation and that God would protect Israel.

We Christians must be mindful of the power of intercessory prayer.  We must spread our own letters of anxiety before the Lord and remember that the Lord promises to take care of us.  We need to rest assured that the Holy Spirit will pray with us just as much as the Spirit captures our hearts, and gives us boldness to bring everything before Him.

In a devotional based on Isaiah 37, F. B. Meyer states, “Let us more habitually hand over our anxieties and cares to God.  God calls us to enter his rest…to place Himself and his care between us and all that would hurt or annoy.”

Intercede on behalf of those loved ones in your life.  Affirm and ask God to protect you and keep you.  In all things, surrender unto God and trust that the Holy Spirit will bring a peace that surpasses understanding.  There is power in prayer and in intercession.

Lord, hear our prayers!

Three Thoughts and the Redemption of Time

timeBy Matt Sapp

Yesterday was my fourth wedding anniversary.  The second day of June, 2012, I married Julie Knight and have been privileged to live in her orbit ever since. Each year we each travel 93 million miles around the sun.  So, today, Julie and I have made it 372 million miles together—an incredible journey already.

And, as cliché as it sounds, I can’t believe it’s been four years already.

Time is a tricky thing. The same moments in our lives—like wedding days—can at one moment seem like only yesterday and at other moments seem like a lifetime ago.

I spent a good portion of my three-year master’s program thinking about time and its relationship to eternity and our sinfulness.  I won’t bore you with those thoughts here, except to say that as Christians we live in a world governed by the realities and rules of time, but we look forward to an eternal future in fellowship with an eternal God.  That makes our relationship with time strained at best.

Time, like us, is part of a fallen world that needs to be redeemed.  That means time is not an unqualified good; it is not an essential part of God’s design.  When time is used wisely, it can feel like a gift. But when time is squandered it feels like a curse.

Time is a tricky thing.  So here are three thoughts about time as I celebrate another trip around the sun with Julie.

  1. Learn to live with your past.

Every previous second—even the most painful ones, the ones marked by my greatest disappointments and mistakes—contributes to who I am today.  Although I know I’m far from perfect, I’m happy with the person God is leading me to become.

I haven’t always been able to say that.  Who has?  But I’m working, as I hope you are, too, to live beyond past regrets.  Don’t let any regret about who you’ve been or what you’ve done rob you of the joy of being who God calls you to be today.

  1. Don’t fear the future.

The control freak in all of us wants to know just exactly how tomorrow or next year or the next decade will turn out.  Uncertainty—and uncertainty is always about the future—naturally breeds fear.  Worry about the future robs us of the joy of now.  Jesus devotes a significant portion of the Sermon on the Mount to this idea. We should take note.

Learn to accept the future—whatever it may be—without the anxiety, worry, tension and nervousness that often accompanies uncertainty.

  1. Prioritize the present.

Prioritize the present.  And even more, prioritize the people in the present.  The most important parts of who we are—apart from God—are the people who make up the moments of our lives.

As I think about Julie today and the four years that have slipped by us, I’m reminded that we ought to prioritize people and our shared experiences together over everything else.

There is no other time but now.  There is no better time.  There is no perfect time.  There is no future time. There is only now.  Enjoy the present.  Value where you are and who you are and what you have now. It’s the only way to be happy.

One day, we say, when I have more economic security, I’ll be more true to myself.  One day, when I don’t have to worry what other people think, I’ll be bolder in my thinking.  One day I’ll be more truthful and daring in how I express myself.  We have all kinds of excuses that keep us from living fully into the people God has called us to be.

Now is the time to ditch the excuses. Now is the time to be who God has called you to be.

So, when you’re tempted to move beyond the present moment, either to the guilt of the past or the anxiety of the future, remember the great miracle that you are right now.

Don’t believe me? Right now, you are hurtling through space at more than 33,000 miles per hour on one more trip around the sun. Feel the wind on your face, and enjoy the ride.

Reprinted with permission from the author.