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Monday, January 7, 2013

Getting Down to Business: Start with Prayer

I bought a "Word of the Day" calendar for the second year in a row, and I'm using it to learn more of the sort of "back story" of the English language. The word for this past weekend was "business."  According to the calendar, it happens to come from the word "busyness," and it implies a sense of  frenzy or anxiety about whatever you might call your "business."

I finished reading this little entry and looked over at my (very long) to-do list, and wondered why business had come to be so closely connected with anxiety and haste. I'm not against working, but I do think that sometimes we take our "business" to the extreme.  Medical research is constantly announcing the health cost of too much or prolonged stress, and there are other costs, too, when our anxiety boils over into our marriages and relationships. In the end, anxiety can become one of the biggest obstacles we encounter as we strive to "get business done."

Anxiety doesn't always have to go hand in hand with "business." The Bible advises us, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God," (Philippians 4:6 NIV).  Note that it says "in every situation" we should be praying rather than getting anxious. That means that if someone is slow to get back to us and we're on a deadline, we should stop and pray, instead of hammering our fingernails against the desk as our blood pressure climbs. If spilled coffee in the break room makes us feel stressed out, we should stop and pray before breaking out the paper towels. If rude drivers on the commute make us feel like shouting, we should turn the radio down and pray for part of the drive.

I don't mean that we should recite some sort of self-soothing mantra to calm ourselves down. There is a better way to pray!  If we look back at that verse in Philippians that I quoted earlier, it says that we should pray "with thanksgiving," and that we should "present [our] requests to God."  These prayers are conversations or special requests asked in faith, not just words recited to an unfeeling universe.  They are our needs presented to a real, living God who we have come to know and who assured us He is listening.  Because we know we have been heard, and because we know that He is there, and that He does take action, we can be thankful and comforted.

Next time, when "business" is making us anxious, we should take a moment, however brief, and pray in faith, knowing that we have been heard and that God is going to answer--sometimes by changing the situation, and sometimes by helping us to overcome it.  That even goes for those who have never prayed before.  Go ahead and try it!
This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears us—whatever we ask—we know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5: 14, 15 NIV
My church has called for a week of prayer, and you're invited to join in.  When you are praying for your own needs, please remember to also pray for missionaries and church leaders, friends and families, students and teachers, lawmakers and governments around the world, and any other needs you feel moved to mention.  This might be a good way to establish the habit of intercessory prayer in the new year.