6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4 v 6-7
“If we did not already know that we were living in anxious times, it took only the news last Thursday that some 20 garages across the country had run out of fuel, to there being queues on Friday and by Sunday over half of garages closed. Most of us know, in our heads at least, that provided we all act wisely and don’t panic, there won’t be a problem, but we have things to do, work to be at, family to see, we don’t want to get caught out and in any case can we really assume that all will act wisely? Add to that an injunction from government ministers not to panic, and it is not surprising we do!
“As I reflect on these last few days, I am aware that our immediate sense of anxiety that there may be no fuel at the petrol station comes out of a deeper anxiety in our world and our Church in a time of extraordinary change. As a nation no longer part of the European Union, we are having to find a new place in the world. We are facing the increasingly stark reality of the climate crisis and the need to safeguard creation, we are having to adapt to living with Covid, and the economic impact of the pandemic and its implications for us and our families is only just becoming apparent. It is not surprising we are ‘on edge’ and thus easily blown off balance when something else around us seems to go wrong.
“The challenge we face in all of this is where we find our centre of stability – that place which keeps us rooted in the midst of the turmoil of our public and indeed our personal life, the joys and the sorrows that each of us bears.
“Paul, writing to the Philippians from his prison cell where he is facing the prospect of execution for his faith, gives a clear answer. Do not be anxious… but pray and give thanks to God.
“Finding and maintaining a discipline of prayer is though not easy. As a parish priest I would have a church to be at, colleagues and parishioners expecting me to be there. As a Bishop most often, I am on my own, no chapel, no special place, praying rather in the midst of the mess of daily life, and the mess of my study! Maintaining that discipline is hard work. Some days are more successful than others, but strangely I am grateful. Sometimes there is more of a reality in the mess and always I am aware of the need of God’s presence with me, and of his grace in my inadequacy.
“Prayer can be hard work, though it does not need to be difficult. It is a discipline we need to work at without complicating it, taking time, reading the scriptures maybe with a simple structure which (because we like giving strange names to things in church!) we call an office. There are plenty on offer, just ask. It’s worth persisting. As the prayers I use remind me each Thursday, ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you. I have called you by name; you are mine’. Here is balm for our anxiety indeed.”