Today’s Reading: Philippians 4
Did you know Amazon keeps track of your highlights? When Kindle readers mark sentences, the online retailer notes it so that everyone can see a faint dotted line on their e-reader that tells them someone underlined the sentence or passage. Readers can also see how many other people underlined that same passage.
Recently Amazon released a list of the most popular passages in some of its bestselling books, such as The Hunger Games, the Harry Potter series, and classics like Pride and Prejudice. Amazon also included the Bible in this list. Guess what the most highlighted passage in the Holy Bible was around the world? I covered the answer to see if I could guess correctly. I was certain it had to be one of three passages: John 3:16, Psalm 23, or the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-13. But no, it was one that’s striking a deep chord in today’s worried world, and it comes from today’s chapter:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:6-7, NIV)
Kindle readers throughout the whole world highlighted this Bible passage on their Kindle more than any other verse. Here’s the passage from The Message:
“Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life.”
I love that part—“Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers.” As author Tiffany Berry once said, “If you’re going to worry, there’s no need to pray, and if you’re going to pray, there’s no need to worry.”
We live in a worried world. And anxiety can get the best of us. In The Me I Want to Be, pastor John Ortberg offers insight on how to respond to anxiety:
“Psychiatrist Edward Hallowell says it like this: Never worry alone. When anxiety grabs my mind, it is self-perpetuating. Worrisome thoughts reproduce faster than rabbits, so one of the most powerful ways to stop the spiral of worry is simply to disclose my worry to a friend.”
In today’s chapter, Paul tells us who our best friend is to disclose our worry to: God Himself. As Donald J. Morgan says, “Every evening I turn my troubles over to God—He’s going to be up all night anyway.” According to the apostle Paul, we choose to shape worries into prayers and that in essence is disclosing it to our Friend.
I had someone once talk to me about their week. This person said, “I have sighed more than I breathed.” Wow, I have been there. Those are weeks weighed down with worry and not peace. When we’re in those kinds of weeks, as the saying goes, “It’s not the load that breaks you down, it’s the way you carry it.” Philippians 4 gives us a way to carry the load—by shaping our worries into prayers.
When was the last time you meditated on a Bible verse? Some people get weird definitions of what “meditation” is. Let me explain it like the Puritan writers of the past explained it. They said you know how to meditate if you know how to worry, as worry is simply negative meditation. When you worry, you think about the problem all day long.
When you meditate in a positive way, you take a Bible verse and turn it over in your mind all day long. This is one of those verses I would attempt to meditate on. Write it down and put it in your car so you can see it as you drive. Tape it on your bathroom mirror so that as you get ready for work in the morning, those are the first words you see. Tape it to the refrigerator door, the most used door in the home, so you can keep it always before you. And whisper to yourself all day long, “I am shaping my worries into prayer.”
It goes something like this: The washer is broken, and it will cost you $400, out of an already tight budget, to get it fixed. I will shape my worries into prayer, you remind yourself. So you pray, “God, You’ve got this. I’m grateful for the clothes on my back. And I would like to have clean clothes on my back. You can provide in ways I can’t even imagine. I give You this setback.”
Or it goes like this: You hear through the grapevine that your company is going to lay off employees. You have worked there for the past ten years. In your mind, you are fearful that you are not going to make the cut. You remind yourself, I will shape my worries into prayer. And you pray, “God, my future is in Your hands. You have always been faithful to me and my family, and I believe You will be faithful with whatever happens. I don’t have the energy or the emotional capacity to stress over this, so I let You take it off my heart and mind and let You carry it.”
An average person’s anxiety is focused on:
40 percent: things that will never happen
30 percent: things about the past that can’t be changed
12 percent: things about criticism by others, mostly untrue
10 percent: health, which gets worse with stress
8 percent: real problems that will be faced
The lead character, Van Wilder, in the movie of the same name makes an insightful observation, “Worrying is like a rocking chair: it gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.”
Shape your worries into prayers.