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3 Short Bible Verses to Pray When You’re Overwhelmed

A prayerful—and direct—guide from the Apostle Paul.
Rick Hamlin

Feeling a little overwhelmed? Wondering what to pray? Or how to pray? For all his rich teachings, the apostle Paul can also be disarmingly direct, as he is with these three verses. Let them be your prayerful guide, as they have been for me recently.

Rejoice always. (1Thessalonians 5:16) Our son, Will, and his wife, Karen, and their six-month-old baby Ricky flew out from California to stay with us. What a delight to make Ricky smile.

Shortly after their arrival, though, all three of them tested positive for COVID. So did my wife, Carol. Their cases were relatively mild, but I needed to socially distant myself from the family and stayed away, house-sitting for some friends.

I had to remind myself, “Rejoice always.” Always, Lord? Yes, look for the sources of joy. The glorious weather, the blessed hospitality of friends, Ricky’s laughter caught on video. God is with you now, even now. Especially now.

Pray without ceasing. (1Thessalonians 5:17) I could be grateful that I hadn’t been hit with the virus. But then, I ended up having my own disaster. Staying in an unfamiliar place, I got up from the sofa one morning, tripped over the rug, hit my face hard on a chair and broke my nose. Two small fractures, as it turned out.

At the E.R. I couldn’t really concentrate or read anything with the flurry of activity around me, the nurses, doctors, patients. What could I do? Pray, pray, indeed pray without ceasing.

Paul doesn’t mean a ceaseless uttering of prayers; rather the goal, I think, is to live life prayerfully. There in the E.R. I found God powerfully present: in the care of the medical staff, in the concern of loved ones, in the needs of the people who’d showed up, in the very equipment like X-rays and CT-scans they used on me.

Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1Thessalonians 5:18) How often we find ourselves in places or situations that we would much rather escape. Is it possible that thankfulness even in dire circumstances is our best escape? You can sit on a sun-drenched beach and still feel unhappy (I have). Just as you can wait in an E.R. and feel grateful (done that, too).

I’m quoting this verse in full for it’s not just about the thankfulness; it’s about the larger picture. Thankfulness not just for thankfulness’s sake, but to do the will of God.

At various times in my life, I’ve written down things I was thankful for, making a list in a little booklet, adding items as they occur to me. At last count there are well over a hundred things. I suspect I’ll get to a thousand.

As for the nose, the ENT said it didn’t need to be set or anything. “It’s not like a leg or arm that will move.” Fortunately, it didn’t really hurt—add that to the thankful list. I flipped open the phone to send a text to family. There was another adorable shot of Ricky.

Give thanks for that.

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