Spirit & Truth # 236
By Rev. Greg Smith
“The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.”
God wants you to have a beautiful prayer life, but often that’s easier said than done. If you’re like me, it’s all too often that distracting and anxious thoughts pop up, destroying whatever peace you may have gained through prayer. Psalm 139 is a beautiful prayer of trust in God, acknowledging that God knows us inside and out, is constantly thinking about us, and is always present with us. Yet the psalmist admits that distracting and anxious thoughts interfere with his prayer life, too.
In verses 11-12 (NIV), David says, “If I say, ‘Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me,’ even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.” David admits that he is prone to thoughts of worry and darkness, but he reminds himself that God is in control. Even darkness is not dark to God—because God is the light. When anxious thoughts invade your prayer life, simply smile and remind yourself that your darkness is not God’s darkness, and that He is the light.
The bulk of David’s psalm is calming, inspiring, and reassuring—much like our devotion time should be. But then the tone of David’s psalm changes. Suddenly, sandwiched between words of comfort, David writes, “If only you, God, would slay the wicked! Away from me, you who are bloodthirsty! They speak of you with evil intent; your adversaries misuse your name. Do I not hate those who hate you, LORD, and abhor those who are in rebellion against you? I have nothing but hatred for them; I count them my enemies (vv. 19-21 NIV).”
When we read these verses, we wonder where they came from, because they’re so out of character for the rest of the psalm. The answer is that these are David’s wandering, distracting, anxious thoughts. Instead of the reassurance that he felt just a few verses ago, now David shifts to worrying about evildoers. How our thoughts wander when we’re in prayer as well! But we need to be careful about anxious thoughts. Arthur Somers Roche warns that “anxiety is a thin stream of fear trickling through the mind. If encouraged, it cuts a channel into which all others thoughts are drained.” If you let anxiety rule your thought life, you’ll find that there’s little room left for faith.
So, regaining his composure, David prays, “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting (vv. 23-24 NIV).” When anxious thoughts interrupt your prayer time, simply smile at them like an old friend. Regain your composure and ask God to search you and know your heart and your anxiety. Ask Him to cleanse your heart of anything that gets in the way of your peaceful relationship with the Lord, and ask Him to lead you in His eternal way.