As we seek to worship God with our everyday ordinary lives, one of the biggest hurdles to meaningful connection is when we encounter those situations that overwhelm us: trials, conflicts, roadblocks, setbacks and the like. Usually, there are strong emotions that accompany these events, like fear, anger, anxiety, sorrow or discouragement. If you’re like me (which I suspect you are), we tend to react to these emotions. I’ll either push them away or compensate for them or try to fix them (both the situation and/or the emotion). This usually leads me to make poor decisions that lead me away from the ways of God.
The Psalmist prays, “When my heart is overwhelmed, lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Ps 61:3). Peter elaborates on this by writing, “Cast all your cares on Him, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Jesus taught his disciples, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in Me” (John 14:1). Scripture also affirms to render “every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor 10:5).
One way that has helped me to deal with overwhelming situations and to turn them over to God is the spiritual practice of “Welcoming Prayer.”
Welcoming Prayer is where I welcome things into my soul that are “unwelcomable”; namely, unwelcome emotions that are negative and uncomfortable. It is very counterintuitive, in that I usually avoid or try to get rid of these emotions at all cost. However, we all know that, in spite of our best efforts to get rid of these emotions, they never really go away – and when they come back, they come with a vengeance! So welcoming prayer actually helps us to deal with these emotions as they come to us, which is so much better than putting them off. But we deal with them in God’s presence.
There are three movements to Welcoming Prayer:
1. Welcoming. As the emotion comes to me, I welcome it to my soul. I say (sometimes aloud), “Welcome, Fear” or “Welcome, Anxiety” or “Welcome, Insecurity.” But I also invite the Holy Spirit to come and stand with my soul.
2. Noticing. I do not react to the emotion, but I notice how it is manifesting itself in my body. I will feel something in my stomach. I might feel tension in my neck or my jaw. Perhaps the hair on the back of my neck stands on end. Noticing these things keeps me from reacting to the emotion (which defeats the purpose because that’s what it wants me to do), and gives the Holy Spirit some time and space to move in my soul. Often I will name the physical sensation
3. Surrendering. When I have sufficiently described how the emotion is being manifested, I begin the process of surrendering. I surrender my need for survival, security, approval, affection, power, control, and to change the situation/person/event etc. This is where I also make declarations of who God/Christ is in my life: my Provider, Lover of my Soul, and Sovereign over all things. In this movement, I am transferring my trust and worship from the source of those emotions back to God. Usually during this part of the prayer, I will begin to feel the physical manifestations of worry and fear leaving my body.
What makes this prayer so powerful is that, although the situation hasn’t changed, my perspective and my position has. Instead of being overcome by the emotions, I am in a place of trust and confidence in the loving arms of God. By welcoming these thoughts and emotions – and not reacting to them – the Spirit of God renders them captive to the obedience of Christ. I am then in a position to hear from God as to what my next step in this situation is, rather than running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
I am still very much a beginner in this prayer, but I’ve already seen powerful results. I’m already praying this prayer several times a day because I find it to be so transforming and renewing. More than anything else, it always leads me back to whole life worship of God.
So, try it in your life situations … and tell me know how it goes!