If the ways that we are tempted to pray - either with arrogance that we know what is best for us or with resignation to a God that we know hardly at all - are only adding to our anxiety and distress, what is the better way? As we have asked so many times over the course of our Christian journeys, how, then, should we pray?
We should pray in full recognition of the things that we know about God.
The most simple way to do this is to frame our payers with a simple phrase: "God, I know You ______." God, I know You are good. God, I know You are Healer. God, I know You love me. God, I know You have a plan. God, I know You work all things together. God, I know You are already working on this. Whatever your prayer might be, for whatever situation, start with what you know about God.
This addresses both of the problems that our lesser prayer gives us. It takes away the self-centeredness of our arrogant prayer, which, we must confess, only keeps us focused on the trouble in front of us. When we keep praying incessantly for a certain answer, for a certain solution, for one particular intervention, we're focused on the problem. It becomes the dominant narrative in our prayer, just like it is in our mind, and it's no wonder that we end up more anxious than when we first started to pray. Praying what we know of God changes our focus to the things that we are most sure of in the world - that God is good. That He is God. All of a sudden, this is what we're thinking about - our God, not our trouble.
In the same way, when we pray in resignation to a God we claim to know nothing about, then all we know of our lives is that we are victims of them. We feel the weight of everything we don't know weighing down on us, and we feel powerless. No wonder our burdens seem so troublesome, so heavy, so oppressive. But when we pray what we know about God, we remember not just what we know about God, but what He knows about us - we remember that we are loved, that God loves us. We remember all of the ways He's already worked in our world and in our lives, and we can breathe a little easier because we don't feel so alone, so abandoned, so victimized. We don't feel like we're at the mercy of our lives; we remember the great mercy He showers upon us.
Inevitably, when I begin to pray this way, I always end up at the same place. When I start to pray what I know for sure of God, I build my confidence in Him with every phrase. Every time I mention a characteristic that I know is true of God's heart, I become more settled in myself. And eventually, I come to remember - and to know in my heart - that God's already got this, whatever it is. My prayer quickly becomes, "I know You've got this, Lord."
And from there, it's just a quick step to remember all of the ways He's already worked things out in my life beyond my wildest imagination, all of the other hard moments and dark days that He's brought me through in typical glorious God fashion. I remember all of the times I haven't felt alone, that I haven't felt abandoned, that I have known without a doubt that God is with me. And my prayer quickly comes to, "I know You've got me, Lord." I know You are holding onto me. I know You are comforting me. I know You are taking care of me.
That's what praying this way does for us. It gets us out of ourselves and puts us into God's hands in this powerful way that actually does soothe our souls. When we come to these two simple conclusions - I know You've got this, God, because I know You've got me - all that anxiety just...disappears. A peace comes to settle in. I'm not stressed any more. I'm not worried any more. I'm not overwhelmed any more. I just come to this place of rest that puts me firmly in God's hands - the hands of a God that I know. And I know that I know Him because that is what I have just been praying. All the things that I know about Him.
In a moment of anxiety, or despair, or grief, or whatever, there is just no substitute for this kind of prayer. And it will never, never leave you empty.
But, you probably knew that. That is, if you know that this is the God who fills you. (And you do know that, right?)
Lord, I know You ________.
Lord, I know You.