In my last post Caring and Connecting during Crisis, I wrote about making sure we look after others during the coronavirus pandemic. It’s been amazing to hear the stories (and experience personally!) so many people who were just reaching out to check in on their circle of friends and family.
For many, fear and anxiety build during the unknown. I personally find comfort in God’s promise that “in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28)
So while there are valid reasons for concern about the spread of COVID-19, there are even greater reasons to remain faithful in prayer to find peace…as hard as that may be right now.
When faced with fear during uncertain times, turning those fears over to God is a good place to start. James 5:16 says, “The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”
Give Up Your Fears in Prayer
When our fears paralyze us and hinder our ability to respond effectively, increasing our prayer can also provide you peace during a crisis.
Jesus’ words remind us, “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Another verse that keeps coming up in my current reading is Philippians 4:6-7 that I used in the last post:
“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
As someone who is a bit of a worrier, these verses in Luke are also comforting to me.
Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?”— Luke 12:22-26
Prayer Reduces Anxiety
According to this USA Today article by Tony Perkins, ordained Southern Baptist pastor and president of the Family Research Council, the power of prayer can actually help us become less anxious.
Studies show that prayer reduces anxiety and depression. A reduction in anxiety allows people to process and react to external events more cognitively rather than emotionally. At a time where there is worldwide concern over the COVID-19 virus and not enough capacity for treatment, a peaceful approach is a good thing.
According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, more than half (55%) of Americans say they pray every day, while 21% say they pray weekly or monthly, with 23% say they seldom or never pray. Even among those who are religiously unaffiliated, 20% say they pray daily,” reports Pew.
That doesn’t mean we only pray; we act as well, but, calmed by the awareness of the presence of God, we can respond with clarity and direction.
The late Dr. Billy Graham once said, “We are to pray in times of adversity, lest we become faithless and unbelieving. We are to pray in times of prosperity, lest we become boastful and proud. We are to pray in times of danger, lest we become fearful and doubting. We are to pray in times of security, lest we become self-sufficient.”
The promise is clear: when we are faithful, we will turn our worry into prayer. When we pray, God will give us peace and lessen our doubts.
Science Proves Prayer Works
There is also science that shows that prayer and meditation impact our brain’s ability to manage through stress.
By first, here is a simple and useful definition of fear:
An anxious feeling, caused by our anticipation of some imagined event or experience.
Medical experts tell us that the anxious feeling we get when we’re afraid is a standardized biological reaction. It’s the same set of body signals, whether we’re afraid of getting bitten by a dog, getting turned down for a date, or getting our taxes audited.
Fear, like all other emotions, is basically information. It offers us knowledge and understanding—if we choose to accept it.
According to the article, This is your brain on prayer and meditation, Dr. David Spiegel at Stanford University School of Medicine says, prayer and meditation are highly effective in lowering our reactivity to traumatic and negative events.
“Praying involves the deeper parts of the brain: the medial prefrontal cortex and the posterior cingulate cortex — the mid-front and back portions,” says Dr. Spiegel, based on activity seen through detailed anatomical pictures taken by magnetic image resonance (MRI). “These parts of the brain are involved in self-reflection and self-soothing.” Spiegel notes that while these reflective regions of the brain are activated, parts of the brain associated with taking action are inactivated, which explains why prayer eases your mind.
In another recent study by NYU Langone Medical Center, members of Alcoholics Anonymous were placed in an MRI scanner and then shown drinking-related images to stimulate cravings. However, those cravings were soon reduced when the participants prayed. The MRI data showed changes in parts of the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for the control of emotion and “the semantic reappraisal of emotion,” the study cited.
God Actually Says, “Fear Not”
God actually commands us not to worry. The phrase “fear not” is used at least 80 times in the Bible, most likely because God knows the enemy uses fear to decrease our hope.
So now for a little levity. There is a funny scene in the movie, Bruce Almighty where Jim Carey is playing God and tries to handle all the prayer requests.
Obviously, Carey is overwhelmed because he is not God. Of course, it’s always better to trust the real God with your prayers anyway!
During any crisis, ask God to increase your faith to deliver you from anxiety. Remain faithful and believe in His promises. Then watch how God moves to reduce your fears.
You can also reach out to your God Buddy for prayer whenever you are feeling especially anxious.