An Anxious Person’s Prayer

anxious person

How can I pray when I’m anxious? That is, how is it possible to pray when anxiety fills my person? How might I go about prayer when I’m in such a condition? Here are a few points to remember.

First of all, reality does not change when I experience internal changes. I might be enraged, frightened out of my mind, or too worried to remember words to a prayer. But God continues to dwell with me. God continues to love me. I remain a person created in the divine image. The world continues moving toward God’s purposes.

Second, it is useless to pretend that I’m not anxious. I must stay with what is and deal with the here and now. Anxiety results from multiple factors: my physical state, which can be affected by fatigue, illness, or adrenaline; my mental state, which can raise my anxiety by believing falsehood or obsessing on a certain problem or fear; my emotional state, which simply indicates how a situation or event is affecting me; my spiritual state, which feels the effects of all other states but may not change as much as I think. What I mean by that is, my spiritual reality is established by the work of Christ and kept by the power of the Holy Spirit. How I interact with my spirituality can be affected by anxiety, but I can take action even then. When I accept that anxiety is happening in me at this moment, I have the power to make choices.

Third, true prayer shapes itself to the situation. How I pray when anxious may not look like how I pray when I’m not anxious. For example:

During non-anxious times, perhaps I can sit quietly to pray.
During anxious times, I pray while pacing or rocking.

During non-anxious times, I might use a lot of words—fully developed thoughts and ideas.
During anxious times, my prayer is a word or short phrase, such as “Help!” or “I need you!”

During non-anxious times, I enjoy praying with Scripture or types of meditation.
During anxious times, I find it easier to pray with objects, such as a smooth stone in my hand.

Please keep in mind some simple ideas if you are anxious and trying to pray.

  • Do not rely on your thought processes during great anxiety. Such a state can skew our thinking and set our thoughts in useless circles. For anxious times, have a few statements of truth, such as a few short verses of Scripture that can keep you grounded.
  • It is always appropriate to cry out to God. Speak plainly. Allow your emotions to express your heart. Remember the psalms, those poetic yet frank prayers to God in all seasons.
  • Carry out St. Ignatius Loyola’s advice to “act against.” Whether our anxiety is the simple result of factors we can recognize, or it feels like an out-and-out attack from something evil, we can counteract it. When afraid, we speak our trust. When worried, we remember God’s protection and help in times past. When tempted to despair, we find one thing for which to give thanks. When beaten down, we choose to help someone else.
About Vinita Hampton Wright 173 Articles
Vinita Hampton Wright has served as senior editor at Loyola Press for 16 years and recently became managing editor of the trade books department. She has written various fiction and non-fiction books, including the novel Dwelling Places with HarperOne, Days of Deepening Friendship and The Art of Spiritual Writing for Loyola Press, and most recently, The St. Teresa of Avila Prayer Book for Paraclete Press. Vinita is a student and practitioner of Ignatian spirituality, and from 2009 to 2015 she blogged at Days of Deepening Friendship. For the past few years, she has co-led small groups through the 19th Annotation of the Spiritual Exercises. She lives in Chicago with her husband, three cats, and a dog. In her “spare” time these days, she is working on her next novel.

19 Comments on An Anxious Person’s Prayer

  1. I am deeply touched by this article!! Thanks a million from an anxious world.

    What do I love about it? The Reality Principle: God continues to love us; His purposes fulfilled in everything. We trust.

    The Truth: Standing on Truth, we come to accept the emotions that come with anxiety, all with life of their own, will vanish in thin air. The feel of smooth stone, the scents of simple basil, mint, rosemary, flowers mysteriously ground one in Truth.

    “When beaten down, help someone else”. There in feeding the 500+
    homeless, God showed me His face. I give thanks!

  2. Thanks for your helpful reflection!

    In anxious times I like Julian of Norwich’s “All will be well, all will be well, and all manner of things will be well.” And then I try to introduce more and more calm silences in between the repetitions. Or reflect in an expanding way on what ‘all manner of things’ are and will be!

  3. Vinita this is a wonderful and helpful reminder and as a decades long sufferer I add a third aspect: the longtime sufferer. Perhaps Ignatius would have seen this as an all out attack, but in spiritual direction I doubt it. I love with a condition as chronic as diabetes and must treat its management as such. Thank you for your attention to the effects of anxiety on prayer. They mirror my own experiences.

  4. Thank you Vinita, a very TIMELY article for me. So many sad things happening which I cannot do anything about except to pray and sometimes I am finding it hard to even do that. I have decided to just put it all in God’s hands as I know that His ways are not always my ways.”Thy will not mine be done oh Lord”. A.M.D.G.

  5. Thank you for your helpful thoughts. When anxious, I find the most useful prayer is “Be Still and Know that I am God” which usually becomes “Be Still”. The safest place for the anxious person is to be totally present in the present moment; the present moment, God’s gift, to love, forever.

  6. I want you to know that I needed this article at this very moment. As a person who is anxious about changes in my body, following surgery, I sometimes find it hard to combine prayer and fear in my mind. Sometimes, the words just don’t come. Sometimes, I feel like I’m running from God.Thank you so much for this article. It makes perfect sense to me! God bless!

  7. I arrived home feeling very anxious about a situation. Finding it difficult to pray I decided to check my email in an attempt to distract myself temporarily-and there was your article providing the help I needed! Thank you so much for your wisdom which was there for me at just the right time. I’m sure I will return to it often. Jenny, UK

    • Even though we know we can always pray, we are so conditioned to wait until we’re in a better mood or something. Lifelong learning! But all is mercy. Peace to you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.


*