Sermon March 29, 2020
ANXIETY AND PRAYER
Coronavirus. The very word itself evokes fear and anxiety. We’re certainly living during unprecedented and unpredictable times. But fear and anxiety should be distinguished. Fear has a definite object, such as our concern about contracting the virus. Anxiety, on the other hand, is a broader term used to describe our persistent worry about the spread of the virus itself. Rest assured that both fear and anxiety are normal human responses to real or perceived threats to our wellbeing.
Actually, neuroscientists are now offering compelling evidence that our brains have a built-in tendency or predisposition toward anxious thoughts, which is sometimes referred to as its “negativity bias.” There is a particular part of the human brain that is always scanning the external world as well as the internal world of thoughts, feelings, and sensations to detect any signs of threat or danger and consequently to trigger a fear response if necessary. So, the brain’s natural position is one of stress and anxiety rather than peace and calm.
Yet, both Jesus and Paul urge us not to be anxious. Therefore, there must be a way for us to calm our naturally anxious minds during this stressful time in our world. Paul counsels “prayer” as a treatment for fear and anxiety. And wouldn’t you know it, the same neuroscientists who’ve identified the brain’s “negativity bias,” have also found that the regular practice of prayer and meditation significantly reduce anxiety.
Now, I’d like to lead us in a very brief practice of Centering Prayer:
- First, be in a quiet place where you will not be easily disturbed.
- Then, choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
- Just sit comfortably with your eyes closed, and silently introduce the sacred word you’ve chosen as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
- When you become aware of thoughts, return silently and gently to your sacred word.
- Now, just remain in silence with eyes closed for about 30 seconds. Amen.
Remember, this form of Centering Prayer requires regular daily “practice” in order to calm our anxious souls. In Fact, in the beginning it should be practiced at least twice daily for 5 minutes or so. Then, gradually increase your prayer and meditation time as the practice becomes more familiar.
This practice of prayer in no way denies or hides from the reality of the Coronavirus pandemic. Rather, it’s a way to effectively and spiritually calm our anxious minds as we are continuously bombarded with news and information about this dreadful disease. And it also provides a sacred space in our souls from which we can then offer additional prayers of praise, confession, thanksgiving and intercession.
Please hold fast to Paul’s words in Philippians 4:6-7:
“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
Thanks be to God. Amen.