The Prayer that Breaks the Worry Cycle (Part 1)

When I was a kid, I had lots of nicknames. One friend called me “Monkey” because I always brought bananas to school in my lunch. Another dubbed me “Too Tall Jones” because I towered over everyone else in our grade, while still another preferred to call me “Giraffe” for the same reason.


I didn’t mind any of these monikers, given as they were by classmates who used them affectionately. When I think of them now, I remember those friends fondly.

I did have another childhood nickname that brings up a different set of feelings, though. Prompted by my apparent propensity for fretting about everything, one of my much older brothers called me “Worry Busby.”

I don’t harbor any ill will toward the giver of that nickname. But while it does make me sad to think of my younger self as a consummate worrier, I also can’t help but feel a bit thankful when I reflect on my past tendencies.

That might sound strange, but the thankfulness isn’t due to what I once was. It’s due to the journey that enabled me to be that way no longer.

My worrying ways followed me into adulthood, into my career as a business news reporter, into my struggles with infertility.

And that’s where everything changed.

I shared last week that it was learning to pray the way Jesus prayed in the garden the night before He was crucified that helped me the most during that difficult season of my life. It helped me release my need to know the outcome and start trusting the God of the outcome—maybe for the first time in my life.

But it did far more than that, which is why I’m reluctant to leave this topic just yet. So, for this week and next, I’m going to peel back the layers of that garden prayer a little more and explore the ramifications—for Jesus and for us today.

The story from the gospel of Luke is a familiar one, of course. Deeply sorrowful about the trial He was about to endure, Jesus asked His three closest disciples to keep watch while He prayed. Luke 22 tells us He went a little ways away, fell with His face to the ground, and uttered one of the most profound prayers ever recorded: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42).

What exactly was Jesus asking God for in that prayer? I’m no theologian, but it seems to me that as He contemplated the horrible pain His body was about to go through, not to mention the excruciating agony of being separated from His heavenly Father, His humanity longed for another option.

He knew He had come to earth to die on the cross, but as the hour of darkness loomed, He prayed for some kind of divinely approved release from that responsibility.

Knowing that Jesus was fully human, just as we are, it’s easy to see why He asked God for another alternative—not once, not twice, but three times as He prayed in the garden. To me, the remarkable aspect of His prayer was the way it ended.

As a red-blooded human being, Jesus may have preferred not to go through an agonizing death on the cross. But even as He prayed for deliverance, He reaffirmed His submission to His Father’s will. While His body screamed for another way, His soul and spirit were willing to accept the path He knew was before Him.

Christ’s interaction with God in Gethsemane is far more mysterious than I could ever hope to comprehend. The theological implications boggle my mind. In that hour, did Jesus—fully man and fully God as He was—really not want to die?

Is it possible that God could have said yes to Jesus and rolled out what we might think of as Plan B, much like He did with Abraham when He was about to sacrifice His only son Isaac on Mount Moriah? (See Genesis 22 for this account.)

I don’t know the answers to these questions. I only know how our elementary understanding of Christ’s experience in the garden helped Randy and me pray for a baby.

As I explained last week, whenever we prayed, we told God of our desire for a child, but always followed it with, “Not my will, but yours be done.”

Basically, what we were really saying was this: If God’s plan for us didn’t include a biological child, then we didn’t want one.

For me, that prayer started out more as an intellectual exercise than a true heartfelt desire. I really did want to get pregnant, after all. But for some reason, the thought that I might miss out on God’s best if I insisted on my own way made me stick with it.

And, as month after month passed without a pregnancy, an interesting thing began to happen. The more we prayed that prayer, the more it worked its way from my mind to my heart, until it truly did become my heart’s desire.

After awhile, I really started to mean it.

We never did get pregnant. But praying this way opened door to God’s peace like I had never experienced it before.

As I prayed for God’s will to be done and learned to trust Him for something over which I had no control, an amazing thing began to happen.

I began to worry less—about everything. It didn’t happen overnight, but gradually, the stranglehold that worry had on my life began to loosen, until it broke entirely.

I still experienced all the trauma of infertility, of course. But I knew I was praying for God’s will to be done, and I knew He was hearing those prayers. So the only logical conclusion I could come to was that no matter what happened, God’s will was being done—even if I wasn’t getting pregnant.

And as odd as it may seem, I found tremendous comfort in that.

Lois Flowers

P.S. When strongholds break, it doesn’t mean the enemy never comes back. Next week, I’ll conclude this little series by sharing a more recent experience with worry, and how the power of Jesus’s prayer continues to work in my heart today.

Another note: Parts of this post were adapted from my book Infertility: Finding God’s Peace in the Journey (Harvest House, 2003), available here.

Finally, this week I’m joining in with Kelly Balarie at Purposeful Faith, Jennifer Dukes Lee at #TellHisStory, Holley Gerth at Coffee for Your Heart, Lyli Dunbar at #ThoughtProvokingThursday, Crystal Twaddell at #FreshMarketFridays and Dawn Klinge at Grace and Truth.

28 Responses to The Prayer that Breaks the Worry Cycle (Part 1)

  1. I get the idea of using this prayer as a “fall back”, so to speak. But with the right heart — yes. Peace!

  2. Although my circumstance was different, I totally connect with this message…after all the crying and pain and wrestling (which I believe is part of being human) passes, and we yeild to His will, God begins the heart work of getting us to where we need to be to be ready for what He has planned. You brought back some not so distant memories, and I’m thankful for this reminder for the next time.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Isn’t that the beauty of Jesus’s example here, that it is so relevant to every situation? The crying and pain and wrestling … yes … and I think God even uses that to bring us to the point of needing Him and Him alone. I’m glad I got to be a part of your trip down memory lane, Crystal. I hope it wasn’t too uncomfortable! 🙂

  3. Julie Moore says:

    I needed this reminder today! I constantly worry and angst. But I need to continually lay those concerns at the feet of our capable Heavenly Father and follow Jesus’ example. I love how you pointed out that His spirit was willing even when His body longed for an alternative. That was beautiful!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you so much, Julie. I know what you mean about having to continually lay those concerns at Jesus’s feet … I’m so thankful He welcomes our burdens and encourages us to cast our cares on Him! I hope you have a good week, one worry-free day at a time. 🙂

  4. Reflecting on this prayer is important to regularly do. I can’t imagine what it took to pray these words. I appreciate your example of how God changed your heart through this type of submissive prayer, bringing your heart in line with your head. God is doing a similar work in my heart in a different area of my life. I am grateful!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Thank you for your kind words, Ginger. I have found, as maybe you have as well, that being able to look back and see how God has worked makes me more eager to pray this way about other things. It never gets old or loses its effectiveness, this prayer! 🙂

  5. What a beautiful reflection and application on that “not my will, but yours prayer.” How beautiful the way God worked in your heart to give you peace. Reading this brings peace to my heart today, friend.

  6. This is such a hard thing to do! And it is a lesson I know I have to keep learning!

  7. June says:

    “The more we prayed that prayer, the more it worked its way from my mind to my heart, until it truly did become my heart’s desire.” this is the beauty and blessing of praying His will! What a beautiful and inspiring testimony, Lois! I’m looking forward to Part 2!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I can’t wait to share the next part, June! And you’re right … that mind to heart journey is the beauty and the blessing of praying this way! Have a good weekend, my friend!

  8. Lisa notes says:

    Praying for His will is an act of self-surrender. But a powerful one that is worth taking! Thanks for sharing more of your story, Lois. I’m glad you were able to break some of those shackles of worrying. I’m slowing getting there myself, but I’d rather it be full and immediate. 🙂 Nonetheless, His will be done, right? Blessings to you!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I prefer the “full and immediate” route too, Lisa! Sometimes the shackles break in a noticeable way and other times the growth is more gradual … and then there are the times when you feel like a total fraud because you are right back where you thought you had left for good! That’s when I have to remind myself that none of this was done in my own strength … which brings me right back to praying for God’s will, not mine! Phew … writing all that made me a little dizzy, but maybe you know what I mean? 🙂

  9. Hi Lois,
    You’ve described the mystery of prayer so practically and articulately! It is hard to understand (and explain) how God delivers peace to our circumstances even though the desire for what we’re praying for doesn’t dissolve. Your journey is inspiring and I’m so glad you’ve chosen to share your story to help point the way to Christ!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Valerie, I appreciate so much that you used the word “mystery” to describe prayer. The older I get, the more comforting I’m finding it is to accept that some things have no explanation–they just ARE. I’m learning (very slowly!) to pray for wisdom and trust that God will direct my steps, even when the way ahead is shrouded in fog and answers are simply unavailable. Maybe you can relate? I always love to read your gentle thoughts here, my friend!

  10. Kristina says:

    Wow what a heartfelt testimony of God’s goodness and work in your life, Lois. I mean it left me speechless because what you said is so real and personal to you but so powerful to me because of your story being back up by scripture and Jesus’ example. I cannot wait till next week. I will be back. visiting from tellhisstory #3

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’m glad my story was powerful for you, Kristina. You’re right … the details here are personal but the possibilities for application are endless, I think! I’m so glad you stopped by today … your words have encouraged me so much!

  11. Liz says:

    Battle is constant and our enemy is relentless! Thanks for sharing your very real struggles and how you found victory in God’s will. I can’t wait to read next week! Blessings!

  12. My friend, can I just say how freeing it is to read words about prayer taking time to make it’s way from head to heart… I don’t know that we talk about that enough. You’ve described it exactly, and it’s beyond encouraging that His truth can overcome even our biggest and most hungry desires, replaced by His faithfulness in all things.
    I feel fed today, Lois, can’t wait to read part 2. Hugs and blessings!

    • Lois Flowers says:

      I’m glad you find that freeing, Christine … so do I. Walking by faith isn’t magic; it takes perseverance! But aren’t you thankful when you can look back and see concrete examples of how God has answered those long-running prayers? 🙂 Thank you for your kind encouragement, my friend!

  13. Linda Stoll says:

    Dear Lois … so glad you’re digging deeper here. I’m soaking it up … and yes, have found that ‘praying Thy will be done’ somehow frees me up from figuring out the rest of my life and opens doors to trusting Him more freely.

    Blessings on you for taking us on this little journey.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      It’s not really a journey I expected to take this summer, Linda, but somehow, the timing just seemed right. We’re walking through some family issues right now that make me appreciate and need the prayer even more right now … especially the freedom it provides (as you put it) not to have to figure out the rest of our lives (or anyone else’s lives)! Have a blessed day, my friend!

  14. Mary Geisen says:

    Your words are soul-filling and also lead us to soul searching. The prayer in the garden is one that I read over quickly, not taking the time to linger over the how Jesus was feeling at that moment. I love how you are taking us deeper into Jesus’s human feelings as well as how we need to sit and linger with God in prayer. Beautiful! Blessed to be your neighbor at Kelly’s RaRa linkup today.

    • Lois Flowers says:

      Mary, thank you so much for YOUR sweet words today. I don’t normally spend so much time on any single topic (at least not in consecutive weeks), but I just felt like it was the right thing for right now. 🙂

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