As the mental health of everyone around the globe continues to be harmed by the world around us, surely there must be a way to find peace of mind. God gives us a way to find it. So watch now to learn just how it is possible to find peace of mind and fulfillment through answered prayer.
[The text below represents an edited transcript of this Tomorrow’s World program.]
We’re living in a troubled world. And our problems have only gotten worse with the coronavirus pandemic. Some experts today say America is going through a mental health crisis. In fact, in October of 2020, the American Psychological Association created the publication Stress in America 2020: A National Mental Health Crisis.
Consider some of the findings:
"Despite several months of acclimating to a new reality and societal upheaval spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, Americans are struggling to cope…. Nearly 2 in 3 adults (65%) say the current amount of uncertainty in our nation causes them stress. Further, 3 in 5 (60%) say the number of issues America faces currently is overwhelming to them…. Issues they are stressed about are not going away, they are piling up" (p. 2).
Think about it. The effect of the virus has had a dramatic impact on many more people than just those touched directly by the disease. The societal disruption it has caused has affected the mental and emotional health of millions of Americans. And it’s the same in many places around the world. On October 5, 2020, the World Health Organization published an article stating this:
"Bereavement, isolation, loss of income and fear are triggering mental health conditions or exacerbating existing ones…. The pandemic is increasing demand for mental health services" ("COVID-19 disrupting mental health services in most countries, WHO survey," October 5, 2020).
How can we survive the trials and difficulties of these troubling times? How do we fight the crushing sense of discouragement many face today? All too often, in our secular world, the most important stress-beating tool is ignored or outright rejected. And yet, it’s something we ALL need to put into practice, to have more peace of mind in a distressing world. What is it? Personal prayer to God.
Welcome to Tomorrow’s World, where we help you make sense of the world through the pages of your Bible.
2020; it’s the year where everything went wrong. But this world’s problems didn’t start with the COVID crisis. Consider the Boston Globe article entitled, "Dear God, Are you out there? The world is falling apart." It’s tempting to think that all our problems just began in February and March of 2020, but life for many was challenging before that time as well.
This world has been on fire for longer than just a few months. Consider the information from the website "Global Protest Tracker." It reports that since 2017:
Society around the world is convulsing. So, what should we do? The Centers for Disease Control, or CDC, has a website that explains that there are things we should do in difficult times to maintain a positive mental framework. Connecting with loved ones is vital. Not succumbing to isolation and loneliness is crucial.
Avoiding getting caught up in the negative media, and taking care of our physical health, all are good pieces of advice. Even so, there is something else which goes far beyond these factors. What is that something else? Seeking the peace of mind that only comes through personal, private contact with God in prayer.
1. Talk to God in a direct and personal way
Do you talk to God in prayer, as if He’s real and is actually listening? Surprisingly, many do not. The Guardian website ran an article in 2018, entitled "Non-believers turn to prayer in a crisis, poll finds." Here is what the author wrote:
"…A new survey has found that one in five adults pray despite saying they are not religious…. Henry, 64, said he prays every night, kneeling by his bed, despite not being religious. ‘I worry about it quite a lot – is it some kind of an insurance policy, is it superstition or is it something more real?’… He said he had no idea if God heard his prayers, and said the act of praying did not make him feel better. ‘I wonder why I don’t stop doing it’" (January 13, 2018).
This is a fascinating survey—20% of non-believing adults in Britain DO PRAY. And as Henry mentioned, some do in spite of doubting that a real God is listening. And it has NO impact on their peace of mind.
Even those who are religious, for many of them, prayer has limited value in really affecting their lives. The article goes on to say this:
"Just over half of all adults in the UK pray… and just under half of those who pray said they believed God hears their prayers… Four in ten… say it makes them feel better."
What a tragedy. Even many religious people who do pray have no confidence that God is listening. So why pray at all if there is no connection and no sense of a Being who’s listening and who really cares?
The first key to effective prayer is to understand WHO we are praying to. We don’t just pray to an idea. We don’t pray to an ambiguous "higher power." We pray to our Father. And our Father sees us and is listening, and wants us to seek Him.
When we do earnestly seek Him, we can have a deep sense of peace of mind that comes no other way.
Let’s turn it over to Matthew chapter 6 and verse 31. Jesus said,
"Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about its own things…" (Matthew 6:31-34).
Notice what He says. Don’t agonize about our daily needs, even when times are tough and budgets are tight. Because the God we serve is the One who provides all those things.
Why is it so important that we go to God in prayer? Because oftentimes the things that stress us the most are the things we can’t control: our worries about our job, our financial situation, our health, or how we’ll put food on the table or pay the mortgage.
I recently heard of a story on a local news program of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer. After her diagnosis, she was not allowed to go to work, because she was now at high risk for getting the coronavirus. And yet she couldn’t work from home, so she was furloughed. Yet, she wasn’t able to move forward with her cancer treatment because of her job situation, so she was left in limbo, and at the publishing of the story was three months behind on her mortgage with no hope in sight.
You might be facing something similar. You might feel like you’re drowning because of the pressures this current crisis is putting on you. Seek God in prayer. He’s YOUR Father, too. His Son DIED for you. He will PROVIDE for you, if you seek Him in heartfelt and persistent prayer. And in the process, you will find peace of mind that passes human understanding.
The key is getting our focus on Him, in personal, private prayer. Jesus also said in Matthew chapter 6 verse 7,
"And when you pray, [not IF you pray, but WHEN you pray] do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him. In this manner, therefore, pray: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Matthew 6:7).
Have you ever noticed that the first half of this model prayer is directed at talking to God, and praising and thanking Him? He is real. He is good, He is holy, loving, caring and compassionate. He has a plan He’s working out. But often our prayers can become just a laundry list of "I need this and I need that." When we pray, the first thing we need to do is get our mind on God, and Who He really is.
The Apostle Paul wrote, in Philippians 4:6,
"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus."
It all starts with thanksgiving. Our attitude toward prayer must begin with acknowledging Who He is and focusing our minds on HIS will…not our own. That’s the starting point for real peace in this troubling world.
And that brings us to the second key in today’s program:
2. Ask God to teach and direct you.
This might seem counterintuitive. When we are under stress, we don’t want MORE burden and guilt. We don’t want to be made to feel like our problems are OUR fault, or that we might be partially responsible for the stress we feel. That’s the LAST thing we want.
But understand what I’m saying. God made us. We are His workmanship. He created our ability to think. He designed us to have human relationships. He put us on this earth. But all too often, in our modern world, we ignore what God says about how to live. And yet He is the One who knows best how to make our life work. Why not ask Him for direction?
The Apostle James wrote, in James 1 and verse 5,
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him."
Are we asking for God to teach us? Is this something that is part of our prayer? We have to understand where real wisdom comes from. And we need wisdom today. Why is wisdom so important? Well, consider a few examples. How hard is it to stay out of endless political debates that are largely futile, and yet bitterly divide even family members? Wisdom can help us avoid those. When under financial pressures, how easy is it to find ourselves snapping at our mates over money matters? And yet wisdom can help us choose love and unity and work together to find solutions. When facing discouragement and depression, how easy is it to fall into harmful behaviors, such as abuse of alcohol, or drugs, or misuse of sex, or falling into pornography? And yet wisdom from God teaches us how to avoid those harmful traps. It shows us that they only bring misery to us and wreck our relationships.
Wisdom from God is vital to navigating difficult times and having peace of mind. We need it today.
In 2 Timothy 1:6, Paul also wrote:
"Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind."
Do you want a sound mind? A sound mind is a gift from God. It doesn’t come from psychology books, or self-help magazines about relaxation techniques. Now, those things can help, but in the end, real peace of mind comes only from God. But we must ask for it.
In Hebrews 4:12, Paul wrote:
"For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
So how does God teach us? Through His Word, which is this Book, the Bible. We must study the Bible for answers to our questions on life. When we pray, we talk to God. When we read and study our Bible, God talks to us. If we’re not diligently reading this Book, it’s as if we are only willing to talk to God, but not listen to His instruction as well.
As a pastor, I’ve worked with people who wanted to improve their lives, but weren’t really willing to look for the answers in the Bible. Their answers came from their own imagination, and what they thought God wanted them to do. But, they failed to realize we must seek for God’s instructions by revering and listening to the Bible.
So, how can you have real peace of mind? By sincerely talking to God in personal prayer, and asking Him to teach you through His Word.
The third key we’ll discuss today is:
3. Act on what God teaches you.
The coronavirus struck in early 2020. By March, it became obvious to many governments around the world, this was going to be a serious public health crisis. The danger was not just from the virus itself, but how people would respond to the virus. There were mental and emotional health dangers associated with the fallout from the pandemic. In response, the Centers for Disease Control issued advice on how to manage stress during the COVID pandemic. These are some of the suggestions that the CDC gave on their website, under the heading, "Healthy Ways to Cope with Stress":
These are all very common-sense pieces of advice. And they are helpful to keep in mind, when facing mental and emotional stress. But think about it. Why is it that we all-too-often listen to experts, and consider their advice as valid, and even change our behavior based on their advice…but we don’t act on the guidance of God?
What do I mean? Let’s turn to what Jesus said in John 13:17,
"If you know these things, blessed (or happy) are you if you do them."
If God made us—if He designed our minds and put together our being, don’t you think He has a thing or two to say about how we should live? For example, look at the whole matter of prayer. We might think, yes, I should really pray. Or, I should pray more consistently, or more earnestly. And, if I did, I’d probably have a better handle on my problems. But life gets busy. We get tired and worn out from the daily battle. The kids need to be put to bed. By the end of the day we’d rather sink into a chair and lose ourselves in a book or in watching TV or YouTube. And the time just slips away. And we let everything and anything keep us from connecting to our Father. In the process, without ever meaning to, we prevent ourselves from getting the mental and emotional peace of mind we really need.
The Bible is filled with advice on how to navigate difficult times. It’s overflowing with stories of real-life people. These were people who really existed, who were not myths, and they faced uncertain times and prevailed, through talking to God, and faithfully responding to Him.
Are we going to take that next step and reach out to our Father in Heaven, and really talk to Him? Are we going to open a Bible—or get a Bible—and let God show us how to survive the stressful times we’re in? Are we going to act on what we learn?
What is putting pressure on you right now? Maybe you were downsized or furloughed because of the pandemic or lost a job. Maybe you have a difficult health trial, Maybe your relationships are a mess, and you and your mate are struggling to maintain a marriage under the weight of family and financial stresses. Maybe you are struggling with an addiction that is eroding your own sense of self, and destroying your life. You want to quit, but you keep falling back into that black hole.
Did you know that God through His Word gives wisdom and real help on all of these issues and many more? We just have to be open to it and ask. And we have to start reading, and then put into practice what we learn.
When ancient King Solomon had dedicated the newly-built Temple in Jerusalem, he led the congregation in prayer to God. He implored God, to listen to his people, even when they would go astray. And, if they would repent, and turn, and seek to honor Him, he asked God to honor their prayer. Here is what God said. It’s found in 2 Chronicles 7:14,
"If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land."
If there ever was a time when we need repentance, and forgiveness, and healing for human beings in our nations around the world, it is now. But what if the nations and governments and leaders and people of this world don’t change? Is there anything holding you back from seeking God personally, in your life? If God is opening your heart and mind, you, too, can call on Him with sincerity, and experience the wonderful peace that comes only from knowing, seeking, and obeying Him.
Notice what the prophet Isaiah said, in Isaiah 55:6,
"Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, and He will have mercy on him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon."
In these stressful times, there is help. And that is through a personal relationship with God. And that starts with private, persistent prayer.
God will give us peace of mind, as we seek Him, ask for His help, and act on what He says through His word.
God is in control. He created everything. And He will guide us if we really want Him to. We can have real, genuine, peace of mind, through personal prayer with the One who gave us life and breath.
Thanks for watching to the end. At Tomorrow’s World, we help people understand the world by helping them understand the Bible. If you want to learn more about the Bible and understand where this world is headed, be sure to subscribe to our channel and click the notification bell. Also, if you want to get our study guide Twelve Keys to Answered Prayer for free, click here. See you next time.