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 (NIV)
I remember as a child I never liked to sleep. My parents would put me to bed, and the second they were out of the room I was out of my bed and right behind them. When I finally did decide to stay in bed, I’d often just lay there awake, completely absorbed in my own thoughts. I have a peculiar mind, and to this day can never get bored as I can find endless things to ponder the intricacies of.
In my bedroom as a child, I had a picture on the wall that my mother cross-stitched for me. It has a prayer on it: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. And if I die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.” When I was anxious, I would read this over and over again. It soothed me, and was one of the few things that helped me get to sleep.
What sort of imagery comes to your mind when you think of prayer? For me, it was always kneeling at my bedside, hands folded, repeating one of the classic prayers, like the one I grew up with on my wall as a child. If this is still all that comes to your mind when you think of prayer, I am here to tell you that prayer is astronomically more than this!
In our present day and age, we live in a constant battle against anxiety. We live in a constant pressure to preform, and keep up with the ever-changing world around us. There are deadlines to meet, bills to pay, and work to get done. We are in desperate need of peace, but peace is so hard to find.
In Philippians 4 Paul writes about prayer. He tells us that prayer, when spoken with an attitude of thanksgiving, will give us peace which “transcends all understanding.” He continues on to say this peace will guard our hearts and minds.
How do we achieve this kind of result in our prayer? While the prayer I repeated as a child helped to soothe me, its impact ended there. Life is more complicated now, and we need more than simple soothing. The Bible tells us that we need to pray in “every situation.” Does this mean we are to be on our knees, hand-folded and eyes closed in every moment of our lives?
No, that is obviously silly. What we need to do is cultivate an attitude of prayer in our everyday lives. Think of prayer more as an overall mindset that determines your actions rather than a particular action you take in a certain moment. Practically, this means striving towards taking each and every thought that passes through your mind, and presenting it to God in conversation. Ask Him to shape all that you think about. As you grow in this discipline He will teach you about Him, yourself, and the world around you in ways you never imagined before. He will also shape your attitude and mindset towards one of peace and thanksgiving in all circumstances.
Why is prayer important? Because it can change our world, one life at a time.