Prayer To Keep Me From Fear When Times Are Hard
Fear Not: How to Stop Feeding Fear and Overcome It
Fear grabs our attention. It gets us ready to fight—or flee. Whether we mask our fear with macho bravado or slink away to seek refuge, it can have a powerful effect on our thinking, decisions and actions.
A healthy fear can keep us from harm. But too often fear keeps us from doing what we want—or need—to do. Sometimes it provokes us into wrong or dangerous responses. Biblically speaking, fear can contribute to obeying—or disobeying—God’s law.
Why does fear seem so pervasive in society today, and what can we do to control it?
Increasing troubles in the world and our neighborhoods can make us feel we are living in a fear zone. Politicians and hucksters of every stripe play on our fears for their own benefit, but that doesn’t mean the underlying dangers are not real.
Terrorism, mass shootings, spreading warfare, violent crime, disease epidemics, natural disasters, deadly animals—all of these are in the news and too often in our entertainment and our nightmares.
Some high-profile dangers we tend to overplay ( fear of sharks, flying and mass shootings), while other much more common killers we tend to downplay ( auto accidents and germs). Many of the things we fear never happen to us, and even when they do, all our anxieties and worries generally have done nothing to protect us.The Bible does not minimize many of the things we fear. In fact, it shows that the world will become more dangerous and frightening as the end times approach.
But it also shows how we can deal with our fears—both the good and the bad.
Fear of the Lord
First, the good fear.
The Bible does promote an exceptional fear—a reasonable fear that actually allows us to eradicate all the deceptive and destructive fears. This healthy awe and respect for our Creator puts us on the path to spiritual knowledge and wisdom (Proverbs 1:7; Psalm 111:10).
Study more about this foundational biblical teaching in our article “Fear of the Lord: What Does It Mean?”
But many other fears do not have good results.
Feelings, phobias and real fears
Our temperament and experiences can contribute to the unique set of phobias and fearful feelings we have. Traumatic events early in life can etch pathways of fear into our brains. Feelings of insecurity can intensify natural human tendencies, the common fear of public speaking.
Do we have to just live in a constant state of anxiety, punctuated by flashes of sheer terror?Experts often suggest fighting irrational fears and phobias with education to change our thinking and practice dealing with the anxiety-producing situations. Many books and online resources have been written about combating specific phobias and anxieties. (For more about this important subject, see “Coping With Anxiety” and “Dealing With Anxiety.”)
But what about the rational fears—the real troubles facing our world that we often have little control over? Do we have to just live in a constant state of anxiety, punctuated by flashes of sheer terror?
Fear vs. faith
The Bible instructs God’s people many times to “fear not.” God does not want us to be debilitated by fear.
For those who have the proper awe and respect for God and who strive to obey His commands, God makes some wonderful promises:
- “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).
- “All your children shall be taught by the LORD, and great shall be the peace of your children. In righteousness you shall be established; you shall be far from oppression, for you shall not fear; and from terror, for it shall not come near you” (Isaiah 54:13-14).
- “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is there anything too hard for Me?” (Jeremiah 32:27).
- “Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matthew 10:29-31).
- “Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32).
- “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
- “For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’ So we may boldly say: ‘The LORD is my helper; I will not fear. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:5-6).
As we grow in the faith to believe these promises, we can increase our ability to turn our worries over to God.
Consider the following biblical principles and examples in your battle with fear:
Go to God with your fears
We can ask God for His strength and peace. David, a man after God’s own heart, faced many frightening situations. After escaping one terrifying incident in the midst of Philistine territory, he wrote, “I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears” (Psalm 34:4).
The apostle Paul, no stranger to fears himself (2 Corinthians 7:5), gave this advice and reassurance: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Jesus Christ” (Philippians 4:6-7).
Seek God’s Spirit
God gives His Spirit to those who repent and are baptized (Acts 2:38), and one fruit of His Spirit is peace (Galatians 5:22). Paul also said it is not “a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God’s Spirit empowers us to control our thinking and to do the right things for the right reason.
For more on applying the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives, see “How Do You Know You Have the Holy Spirit?” and “Fruit of the Spirit: Peace.”
Grow in faith
Our trust in God is His promises and His faithfulness. The Faith Chapter, Hebrews 11, is full of stories of men and women who grew to believe that God would do exactly what He promised. Their trust in the faithful God helped them face their fears and act in faith. It helped them wait patiently and courageously endure terrifying trials.
The greatest example is Jesus Christ Himself. “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
the faithful people of old, we should focus beyond this fearful world on the positive future God has in store. We can also meditate on and appreciate the comfort and peace God gives now.We can ask God for more faith (Luke 17:5; Mark 9:24).
We should then act on that faith in obedience to God, since “faith without works is dead” (James 2:20).
If our focus is on God’s Word and His eternal promises more than the temporary physical circumstances, we will increase our faith and decrease our fear.
For more on this, see our article “How to Grow in Faith.”
Focus on the positive
the faithful people of old, we should focus beyond this fearful world on the positive future God has in store. We can also meditate on and appreciate the comfort and peace God gives now.
Paul directed our thinking toward the positive: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things” (Philippians 4:8).
He also often extolled the importance of gratitude: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
See more in “Christian Meditation” and “Thanksgiving and Your Mental Health.”
Perfect love casts out fear
On our spiritual journey we must never forget our foundational fear of the Lord—our reverence for Him; our recognition of our dependence on Him. This proper perspective should lead to appreciation and praise—and a deeper love of the God who has given us everything we have and ever will receive. He loved us so much He even gave His own Son!
So our relationship with God grows on that foundation. “We love Him because He first loved us,” John wrote (1 John 4:19).
What does that love do? If we follow His steps and let Him live in us, we will not need to fear the only thing worth fearing: God’s day of judgment (verse 17; Matthew 10:28; see our article “What Christianity Gets Wrong About Hell”).As a result, fear is conquered. John summed up the ultimate goal this way: “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).
We can go to God with our fears. We can seek more of His Spirit. We can grow in faith in His ability to defeat anything that threatens us. We can find comfort and security in His loving care.
The fear and loathing of this age will be replaced with love and rejoicing forevermore!
For more understanding of what the Bible teaches, see these related articles:
Why Does God Wait to Answer Prayer?
Why would God wait to answer our prayers? Wouldn’t we expect that since God is all-powerful that He would answer immediately? What is the purpose for God’s delaying our prayer requests?
Outside of God’s Will
One reason that God may not answer our prayers or that He waits is that we are asking for the wrong thing. We may be asking for something that is not in God’s will for our lives and we might be asking for selfish reasons.
James, the half-brother of Jesus wrote, “When you ask, you do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures”(James 4:3).
For example, if we ask for money and we are not already giving to our local church or we have not been helping the poor, why should God give us more money so that we might spend it on ourselves? Also, we might have the wrong motives in asking for something.
If we ask for a better job, the job that we think would be better may actually be worse than the job we have now. God is sovereign and He knows what is best, and holds our best interests in mind for our future (Jer. 29:11).
In the Lord’s Prayer, we are to ask that His will be done on earth just as it is in heaven (Matt 6:10). We know that God’s will for believers is to grow in grace and knowledge, so we can ask for spiritual understanding of His Word just before we read the Bible.
There is confidence in praying when we know His will for out lives as it says in I John 5:14-15, “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.”
We must remember to pray with faith.
When we pray, we may have serious doubts about God’s ability or willingness to answer our prayer.
James 12:6-7 indicates that if we pray in doubt, God will not honor our requests saying, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.” God may be waiting for us to pray in real faith, in expectation of receiving an answer, or to see if we are serious enough to continue to pray for it.
Sin Stops Prayer From Being Answered
God will not answer the prayer of a believer if they are in a state of perpetual, unrepentant sin (I Pet. 3:12). Psalm 66:18 is clear that “If I had cherished sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.
“ If we are obedient, He will hear our prayers (John 15:7) but if we are unforgiving, He will refuse our petitions before His altar (Matt. 18:35).
Matthew 5:24 is says that when we fail to forgive others, this is cause for a failed request for His help, “leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.”
Prayer is Answered in God’s Timing
God also expects us to wait patiently on His perfect timing (Psalm 66:18). In Hebrews 10:36, “For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.
” The minor prophet, Habakkuk speaks for all of us when he grew impatient in waiting for God to answer his request in 1:2, “How long, LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?” I can most certainly identify with Habakkuk in his sentiments.
Psalm 37 is a great Psalm to read when you are seeking the desires of your heart with the realization that it may take some time. Read these key verses from Psalm 37 on waiting:
7 “Rest before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not worry when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.“25 “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread.”
34 “Wait for the LORD and keep his way. He will exalt you to inherit the land; when the wicked are cut off, you will see it.”
Sometimes the desires of our heart take time. They do not happen overnight. God is most often at work when He appears to be the most silent.
Even though Daniel had to wait three weeks before his prayer was answered, God had actually answered his prayer that very day that he prayed.
Don’t think that since God does not immediately reveal to you His answer, that He has not answered it and has not answered it right away.
Daniel had his prayer answered the very same day of his request but it took three weeks for God’s sovereign timing for it to reach him – and it did at exactly the right time, “Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them”(10:12).
Stories of Waiting For Prayer To Be Answered
Don’t ever give up on praying. God shows us that persistence pays off in Luke 18:1-8, “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought.
And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ “For some time he refused.
But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says.And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly.
However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” The point of this parable is that if we continue steadfastly in prayer God will honor that persistence. Never give up on praying because God may be waiting to see if it is important enough to us to continue in prayer, day and night, day after day.
I heard the story of a faithful mother who had been praying for 28 years for her son to come to faith in Christ. Year after year her son was rebellious. He abused drugs, was in and jail, and showed no signs of ever knowing Christ.
The days and years dragged on with absolutely no indication that there was anything different in the man‘s life. Then one day, 28 years after his mother first prayed for him, this man came to a saving faith in Christ.
Today this man, Terry Williams, uses his testimony to help other prison inmates find their way to a relationship with the only One Who can save: Jesus Christ.
What if this mother had given up? What if she decided it was not important enough to keep praying each and every day? What a difference this mother made in her steadfast prayers due to her undying love for her son. Today her son is making an eternal difference for others in prison. This was all due to prayer. Even though she had to wait
Another article you might be interested in:
Does God Answer The Prayers of Unbelievers?
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Why Your Fears Won’t Come True
Fear doesn’t work the way we think it does. I’ll teach you something cool about fear that you can start putting to use right away.
When something scares you, you usually just have an aversion to the notion of that thing. Just the thought of making certain phone calls, confronting certain people, or making certain commitments makes the butterflies bubble up.
This is the point where we usually back down, and distract ourselves from the thought of it by checking email or doing some cleaning or organizing that suddenly seems important.
Quitting my last job to go traveling was something I was afraid of for a long time before I did it. It was a very small company, my boss had been good to me, and I knew it was going to be a blow that came nowhere. The thought of it made me nervous, and I decided to put it off till the next day, ten or twelve times.
Most fears keep us at arm’s length that: we back down at just the idea of doing something nerve-wracking. The fear has done its job — to keep us from going there — and so we don’t look any closer at what it is we’re really afraid of about that idea.
If you do look closely at almost any fear, it’s always a specific moment you’re fearing. A moment with awful feelings in it — awkwardness, pain, shame, guilt, horror, angst. Life unfolds only in moments, so what else could the problem be except some of the moments that you might run into?Ultimately that’s all you are ever fearing: moments that you believe will force you to experience feelings you really don’t want to experience. If you really break it down there’s nothing else that drives us but the appeal of feelings we want to experience and the fear of feelings we don’t want to experience.
Whatever the feeling is, it’s a feeling you’ve already experienced at some point in your life. You couldn’t be afraid of it if you hadn’t.
The longer we live, the more nasty experiences we have, and the more fears we carry around. But we forget that it’s really acute experiences we’re trying to avoid, and instead we let entire categories of actions and notions get dismissed from our lives, because they represent those experiences.
The cat who was afraid of grass for all the wrong reasons
We had a cat who was afraid of the front lawn. She would creep up to it, sniff it a bit, then tear across it she was being chased.
I watched her do this a few times before learning that my Dad had once turned on the sprinkler hose while she was lying beside it.
After that, to her the lawn was a bad place, because it represented the threat of a terrible experience she didn’t want to have again.
She got over it, probably after accidentally having a few good experiences around the lawn. Animals are probably better at forgetting this stuff. Humans cling to fears because our thinking is so hopelessly lost in symbols and categories. We hold onto this idea that we can fence off the painful areas of life if we’re careful enough.
They aren’t all big things. There were so many foods I didn’t eat for years just because my first run-in with them was bad one. I didn’t eat onions for a second time until I was an adult, just because I ate a piece of raw white onion when I was little.
I didn’t recognize that there are a million different ways an onion-eating experience could actually go down — after all, who eats large chunks of raw, white onion? — but I had already cordoned off “onion” as a no-go zone for me, because I refused to ever subject myself to the burning, acidic experience of my first close encounter with an onion.Onions in all forms became fearsome symbols of that lone, unbearable experience, and so I steered my whole life clear of them. This is the distance at which we normally detect and respond to our fears — from far enough away that we don’t really understand what it is we’re fearing. I was fearing the return of a single, awful moment I had when I was a kid.
One day more than a decade later, I bit the bullet and tried something with onion on it, because it was either that or eat nothing. And I had a different experience. It wasn’t bad. “Onion” came to symbolize a much better experience.
What you fear can’t really happen
What I’ve come to realize is that all my fears of the future are actually fears of the past.
Each of us has a whole bank of awful moments in our memories, each of which are so painful that we can’t accept that we could experience the same pain again.
If the thought of something you want to do rouses fear in you, think: what is the experience — the feeling — I’m actually fearing here? You don’t have to psychoanalyze yourself and try to figure out the childhood memory it comes from, but it doesn’t take much thought to identify the precise experience you can’t bear to risk happening.
By obeying our fears from arm’s length, we end up cordoning off enormous areas of possibility. Life is inescapably risky and painful, not to mention 100% fatal. So don’t think you can dodge pain, awkwardness or by backing down from something a bit scary.
The real bad stuff isn’t going to be something you had the foresight to worry about anyway. From Baz Luhrmann’s famous speech: “The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.”
Now, of course there are all sorts of unpleasant scenarios that can happen. But there is no way you can cordon off enough of life to eliminate the risk of pain, and that’s what our fears are trying to do.
And I can tell you, as somebody who’s been a lifelong master cordon-offer, building all those walls will guarantee you way more pain than almost anything else. There’s no better way to limit your skills, experience, personal power, income and prospects. How do you think people get stuck in jobs and relationships they know are killing them?What you fear, whatever horrible scenario you think you’re avoiding — it isn’t going to happen anyway. Similar outcomes may happen, but it will never unfold quite you expected, because that would make you a genuine psychic.
The difficult phone conversation you’ve been putting off: there is no way it will go down exactly you expect it will. It will take a different line, a different tone, either slightly or entirely. But your fear, as it is, will not come true.
Whenever you notice you have some unnerving scenario brewing in your mind, remember one inalienable fact — no matter what scenario you’re picturing:
This is not the way it’s actually going to go down.
It can’t be, because you can’t predict the future. All situations are far more complex that you can possibly calculate, and fear has a way of completely screwing with your higher faculties. Whatever horrible moments you’re afraid of, they cannot match the way the situation is actually going to go down.
Fear of the future is fear of the past. You can’t fear the future because you don’t know the future. You’re just deathly afraid that certain parts of the past will happen again.
Next time you travel to somewhere new, either a new city, a new neighborhood, or even a new building, try to picture what it will be — what it will look , what it will feel to be there.
No matter what kind of information you have about it, your imagined impression will be wrong. Because you’re building it only with what’s already in your head.
What it’s actually built of, what it actually looks and feels , is not there in your head so you just can’t get it right.This is what fearsome thoughts are made of: stuff that’s already in your head — experiences you’ve already had, and categorically not experiences you’re yet to have. You can’t know the moment you’re afraid of, because it doesn’t exist yet. So your fear cannot come true.
Whatever happens, the form it will take will be different. It might be bad, it might be good. It might open a door for you you never knew was there.
But I think we typically over-fear by default. Time and time again in my life I have been surprised at how easy and rewarding most of these scary propositions end up being when I go ahead with them anyway. When they really hurt me is when I keep them at arm’s length, untackled, where they stalk me and mock me.
Those dreaded conversations, when I finally take them on, never turn out quite I thought. I’ve rehearsed long tangents of tricky conversations that never happened. I’ve even flow-charted intimidating phone calls in my head — if he says A I’ll say B, if he says C, I’ll say D.
This is almost always useless. He never says A, or C. That’s because whatever I’ve predicted, that’s not the way it’s going to go down. Because I’m just chicken, not psychic.
I can guess at what’s going to happen, and of course I’m apt to guess that something terrible will happen, just so that I can convince myself it’s a dangerous action to take and I can feel justified in relieving myself from the responsibility of doing it. It lets me off the hook for the moment, and I gain another roaming spectre in my life and another long-lasting no-go zone. Well done.
Fear is fun
When you feel fear, take that as a reminder to bring curiosity to the moment. Something new is on the other side of it. If you act in spite of the fear, something exciting is going to go down. Nine times ten you’ll end up gaining some situational benefit, and ten times ten, you’ll feel stronger immediately.
And maybe there is a passing unpleasant feeling that will come with it. It’s probably a good trade-off anyway. Some of the best prizes in my life have come just on the other side of something I was afraid of, and they didn’t end up being difficult or painful at all. They were so close to me the whole time, and I would never have known what they were offering.
Even if the situation does unravel into a debacle of some kind, if you can remember to keep that sense of curiosity alive throughout it, if you can drop the insane hope that you can control things by fearing them, if you can keep your sense of humor close by, it can actually be amusing to watch everything fall apart.
Think of what a powerful notion that is: fear is fun.
Have fun today.
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