Pray and Let God Worry
“Pray and let God worry.” It’s an aphorism attributed to Martin Luther.
Luther is said to have said lots of things that we can’t actually confirm (see footnote 1 below) and I have my doubts about this one. I think it reads too much like a bumper sticker for Luther and I wonder if he would have considered it simplistic.
We do know that he wrote that we should “…labor and let the care and worry with God.” (2) He wrote this in a sermon outline on the lilies of the field verses in the Gospel according to Matthew. While it substitutes “work” for “prayer,” (which I think a helpful and responsible change) it is similar in that it leaves God with the day’s anxieties.
I know that I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago, but last Friday’s Torch featured a piece on student stress on the front page, above the fold, so I thought it worth a second shot.
Does God worry?
I don’t think Luther cares if God does or doesn’t. The point is, worry and anxiety aren’t our tasks. They aren’t our tasks because worry is an unfruitful practice. It adds nothing to our lives and only consumes energy and creativity that we could be spending on productive things like our work or our friendships. But in placing the worry with God, I think Luther invites us to think through a more helpful question, a question that we might substitute for our worries and anxieties.
The question is this: “What does God think of me?” or maybe a more basic one, “Does God think of me?”
Here, Luther has a clear answer. It’s one that he uses first on himself to help him get through his own times of anxiety and depression. He relied heavily on the fact that on the day after he was born, he had been baptized. He believed, on the basis of what he read in the Bible, that God had made a commitment to him in his baptism. It was a commitment that, while his life might have its ups and downs, God remained trustworthy and sure because God is unable to renege on promises that have been made, even if we waiver in our own faithfulness.
This, for Luther, created an identity, not of his own making. It had nothing to do with his own belief or work or prayer. He was marked with the death and resurrection of Jesus. He was an heir of the reign and rule of God. So, if there was any worrying to be done, it wasn’t his to do. It was up to God to sort out how Luther would take hold of this destiny. In the meantime, he had work to do. So do we.
But the work we do and all of the other ways we fill the hours of our days are not our means to assure a future for ourselves; under the gift of baptism that future is already in hand. It’s ours to trust and hold on to.
If you’d like to talk about this or anything else, Deaconess Kristin or I would be happy to meet with you.
Peace and joy,
Sept. 12, 2018
Pastor Jim and Deaconess Kristin take turns writing weekly devotions for the Chapel of the Resurrection. Contact them here:
- If you have a citation for this, I’d love to hear from you!
- Precious and Sacred Writings of Luther, p. 103
- Archives of Devotional Writings from our Pastoral Staff
- “Some Lent!”
- (Your vocation here) of people
- A Point of Privilege
- A season of anticipation
- Advent = Hope
- All will be well
- Are we willing to cross the road for one another?
- Better Together
- Can we learn to be happy?
- Carrying the COVID Cross
- Come and See
- Did Jesus really suffer?
- Doing without in a life of plenty
- Don’t miss this moment
- Exiles with Vision
- Fear not!
- Feeling at Home
- Finding Purpose in the Journey
- Finding Words for Times Like These
- Forgiving others – and ourselves
- Getting ahead with Jesus
- Getting down on Jesus’ level
- Have yourself a merry little Christmas — somehow
- Holy Week and Taking Out the Trash
- Holy Week: The aid station late in the semester
- Hopes & Dreams vs Life in the Wilderness
- How glad we’ll be if it’s so
- I almost slipped
- In a time of uncertainty, these things are certain
- In praise of plans B … C … D …
- In Praise of Skeptical Disciples
- In the midst of grief, God will bring life
- Is there such a thing as being too forgiving?
- It’s a Three Day Weekend!
- It’s In the Bag
- It’s What’s Happening
- Killing off our future selves
- Lessons in fire building
- Let us work for real wellness in our communities
- Life Is a Highway
- Lilies and leaves and whatever else is beautiful
- Living in the Present
- O Lord, you know I hate buttermilk
- Of Fear and Failure
- On Christian Unity: When we’re not one big happy church
- On the Bucket List
- Pray and Let God Worry
- Preparing for the world to be turned rightside up
- Recovering from an Epic Fail
- Reformation calls for examination
- Remembering among the forgetful
- Seeing beauty in brokenness
- Signs of Love
- Starting Small
- Still in the storm
- Taking a Break from the Relentless
- Talking ourselves into it
- Thankfulness leads to joyfulness
- The Art of Holy Week
- The Funny Business of Forgiveness
- The Greatest of These is Love
- The Magi: Exemplars of Faith and Learning
- The Power of Small Conversations
- The Power of Taking a Sabbath
- The Spiritual Gift of Hindsight
- This can’t be done alone
- To be known
- You will be in our prayers this summer of 2020
- Ventures of which we cannot see the ending
- We had hoped
- What do you do with your anger?
- What is your base reality?
- What to do after you find your voice
- What to do on the day after
- What we know and what we don’t know
- When bad things happen
- When joy and sadness live together
- When the promise of resurrection is hard to believe
- When you offer up your broken cup
- Where God will be found
- Where is the good shepherd carrying you?
- Wilderness Journeys
- Year-end time management: Keeping the main thing the main thing
- Your Valpo roots will help you grow into your future