When I was 36 weeks pregnant with my first son, I went in for a regular checkup only to find out my baby was in fetal distress. Within a half hour, I was being prepped for an emergency c-section. Any who have experienced a similar situation know that you lose autonomy over your body as hospital folks start their process of prepping you for surgery that doesn’t end until they cut your baby out of your stomach. There’s certainly no time to ask everyone to step back and give you a breather so you can collect yourself.
As they strapped me down flat in the operating room, with my arms spread wide in the crucifixion position, I was filled with anxiety and bubbling nausea. I looked up at the anesthesiologist and whispered, “I don’t think I can do this.” He said, “Ok,” and proceeded to inject something into my IV. In about thirty seconds, it seemed that I could do it after all. Nothing had changed in my circumstances or position on the table, and yet, it seemed everything had changed with the calming of my anxiety. At the birth of my second, I asked for that magic injection right off the bat, and I never encountered the same feeling of acute distress.
Last week, I was faced with a bubbling up of overwhelming anxiety that reminded me of what I felt at that first c-section. “I don’t think I can do this,” I said to myself, trying to not run screaming from the room. I have learned in those moments, though, the amazing power of prayer. I sent out a text message to a few friends I knew would pray fervently for me. I prayed as well, though it was mostly incoherent mutterings, the type Paul mentions in Romans 8. Sure enough, in a while, I felt less anxious. It wasn’t that my circumstance changed but that God lowered my anxiety level so that I could deal with it.
This is not Christian rocket science.
Phil. 4:6-7 Don’t worry about anything, but in everything, through prayer and petition with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.
We often look to prayer to change circumstances, but I’m becoming daily more convinced that the incredible power of prayer is how it changes us to be able to faithfully walk hard paths God has for us. I often want my circumstances to change, but, wow, it is truly amazing to find a peace and confidence that, though no circumstance has changed, you won’t be destroyed by things you once thought would tear you apart.