Tuesday, March 4, 2014

When the Lord's Prayer Gave Me an Anxiety Attack

    Lord, teach us to pray.
    It was Sunday, my day of rest, the day I tried to quiet my soul and feed on prayer and the voice of God.
    Teach us to pray.
    I was trying a spiritual discipline, one that mentioned reading through the Lord's prayer and reflecting on each line. This struck me as familiar; I actually used to do this all the time. Religiously.
    And Jesus said, when you pray, say...
    I thought God wouldn't take me seriously if I prayed anything without saying the Lord's prayer, and since God doesn't want vain repetitions, I made sure I focused on every last word. Day after day, prayer after prayer. I even got on my knees and locked myself in a bathroom or my bedroom, because Jesus said go into a quiet room.
    As a recovering literalist/legalist, my first instinct was nope, I ain't gonna do this discipline. Are you kidding me? No way, dude.
    But then - but then I thought, why let my fears and my past influence the present? I can do this! Yeah!
    Yet sometimes, strength is actually holding back.
    Because the memories came swirling back. The feelings of despondency, of desolation, of I have to do this right or I am not pleasing to God.
    I couldn't finish. The memories and feelings pulled me under. My heart tingled with fear and loneliness and misery, and all the unpleasant running from God in high school, the desperate attempts at legalism so no one would know I was starving myself and ignoring God, family drama that's still tearing my heart today, all of it flooded my mind.
    And the only prayer I can really manage at times like these is a single word: mercy.
    Because, Oh, God, in these moments, I am utterly undone. I am unraveled and disheveled and hollow, and I fear You and I fear humanity and I fear myself. I fear my grades and I am desperate for approval and I need freedom, but freedom is uncomfortable and dangerous.
    God help me. Help. Me.
    I don't have a happy ending, except I recovered from that anxiety attack and I'd like to end with the lyrics to my favorite song. I'm not sure why the lyrics were altered from the Lord's Prayer. I just know that when I heard this song four years ago, it said everything I needed to hear and it still does.

Our God in heaven
Hallowed be
Thy name above all names
Your kingdom come
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven
Give us today our daily bread
Forgive us wicked sinners
Lead us far away from our vices
And deliver us from these prisons.

So, whatever prison you're in today, whatever you believe in, I pray you find deliverance.

(If you want to listen to this song, it's "Your Love is Strong" by Jon Foreman:


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