The “Worry Prayer”

If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

‭‭James‬ ‭1:5-8‬ ‭The Message

Two weeks ago, we received a request to help clean out my husband’s grandmother’s house. She passed away earlier this year, and the immediate family put countless hours of work into the exterior of the house. But the real work was on the inside. She accumulated hundreds of baskets, wreaths, and nick nacks. Several decades of “garbage” filled every available space in the attic and basement ranging from used windows to worn out filthy carpet to nostalgic items including the wooden crate used to ship her son’s belongings back from overseas when he served in the military.

During cleanup, several family members reiterated the need for respiratory protection. Years of built up dirt, dust, mildew, and mold filled our lungs. Between the coughs were sneezes followed by blowing noses and eye rubbing. The irritation didn’t end until the next morning for my husband; it decided to stick around and turn into a major respiratory infection for me.

There’s nothing like a debilitating illness to show you how weak and fragile you are. Every task takes more motivation, effort, and time to complete. In my case, it also clouds my thinking and makes me prone to mistakes. My first week sick was rife with rework and schedule delays. Though the second week was better, I was still not up to par. Nasal congestion and a cough that made my entire body sore kept me up most nights. I tried to compensate for the lack of sleep by drinking herbal tea and raw honey during the coughing spells in the middle of the night and going back to bed at 5 a.m. which is my typical waking hour.

On Thanksgiving Eve, just when I reached the point of sleep in the early morning hours, my phone notified me of an incoming text. Thinking it might be my husband or news of an emergency, I picked up my phone and struggled to read the two-page-long text. It was a friend I hadn’t seen in years informing me she was heading out to a job interview. She needed me to be a reference. Without hesitation, I responded I would be happy to help, and without thoroughly reading the entire text, I attempted to get a few minutes of rest before tackling a big work project.

When I was in a better position to comprehend the unusually long text, I saw an invitation to meet for lunch. There were references to being in a neighboring state, visiting a child at a local university, driving back to New England on Saturday morning, and somehow fitting in a face to face visit with me. A part of me was elated to meet up with a friend I hadn’t seen or talked to in over a year. But another part of me was wondering how I was going to keep my current commitments, recover from a major illness, and find a way to meet someone with a tight schedule in an unknown location on short notice.

Though my first instinct was to be responsive, I opted to wait and think about the invitation. I didn’t really want to send a text with a litany of reasons why this wouldn’t work for me, so I said I was “juggling quite a few things this week” and suggested maybe she call me on her way back to New England on Saturday morning. I had to choose between setting a boundary that could be perceived as a rejection and saying yes to a commitment that would be hard to keep and possibly create some resentment on my end.

To my disappointment, the response was, “My schedule is busy, too.” The last thing I wanted was to hide behind “busy,” but that’s exactly how my message was received. And from that point on, I worried about this interaction for two full days.

How can a relationship that can barely be called a relationship impact me to the point of worry? Why did I feel as though, because I was contacted via text, that I couldn’t just call and explain what I didn’t want to write? It wasn’t until late Sunday, after not receiving a call from her Saturday, that I realized I was saying “worry prayers” instead of asking God for peace and clear direction to salvage what little relationship already existed.

If you’ve never thought about the uselessness of worry, consider these statistics documented by Earl Nightingale:

Things that never happen: 40 percent. That is, 40 percent of the things you worry about will never occur anyway.Things over and past that can’t be changed by all the worry in the world: 30 percent.Needless worries about our health: 12 percent.Petty, miscellaneous worries: 10 percent.Real, legitimate worries: 8 percent. Only 8 percent of your worries are worth concerning yourself about.

Is it possible, after stepping back to see the big picture, that this “worry” over a somewhat insignificant event could possibly fall into the eight percent category of a real concern? Unlikely. Knowing that one of the keys to maintaining healthy relationships is to always be willing to take the initiative to apologize, admit wrongdoing, or simply convey care and concern, I called her late Sunday afternoon. If it’s a bad time, she won’t pick up. If she’s upset with me, she may or may not pick up and smooth things over. If it’s a good time, perhaps this will all be resolved in a few minutes of live conversation. She didn’t answer the call. I left a message to express my concern for her safe passage home and an offer to talk sometime in the upcoming week to catch up and review job opportunities. Should I be worried?

To answer that question, it’s a resounding NO! Early this morning, she sent me a text indicating she had to go back to New England a day early to address a pet emergency. In retrospect, if we had made plans to meet, it never would’ve happened anyway. Forty percent. Forty percent of the things you worry about will never happen anyway.

©, November 26, 2018


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