community, mental health & wellness, Scripture, spiritual

By Prayer and Petition

I started a petition once. Just once.

It started on a Sunday in 2010, shortly after I had entered a very stressful season. The preacher at church that morning talked about a portion of Philippians 4 that says this:

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Do not be anxious about anything? Seriously? How?

I paid half-attention to the preacher and pondered practical ways to possibly “not be anxious about anything.” I needed God, but I also needed something I could see, touch, experience. And I believe in a God, who in the incarnation of Christ, offers hope we can see, touch, experience. So I thought about the rest of the verse — the part after the simplistic snippet about how we should “not be anxious about anything.”

Prayer. Petition. Thanksgiving.

I pictured a petition and the parts it involves: a statement of current conditions, a proposal for change, a list of signatures.

So, strange as it sounds, a petition emerged saying something like this: “I’m stressed. I propose a change in my commitment to self-care and pursuit of social support.”

Then, came the list of signatures. It was a slightly awkward but ultimately empowering process (as petitioning perhaps tends to be) seeking signatures on this thing from anyone who had expressed support of this issue in their various ways — anyone from my therapist to the pastor who had referred me to the therapist to the college classmate who had run into me at a coffee shop and lent a listening ear.

The signatures lent power to the petition. They pushed me to pray, to give thanks, to believe that perhaps with all that help clearly available I actually could “not be anxious about anything.” So, in time, the petition came to pass.

I’ve been thinking about the petition lately, even thinking about making a new one or adding signatures to the old one. Because, a commitment to self-care is something I believe in. And, it’s taken me a long time to learn this, but it’s something that many people believe in.

Many people believe in the value of my life and health and vitality. And many people believe in the value of your life and health and vitality.

I wonder: If you made a petition proposing a change to your personal wellbeing…who would sign? Who would your supporters be? If you’re not sure, it’s something worth working on. Because, with support, in time, your petition for peace can come to pass. I’m sure of it — so sure that I’d sign a statement to that effect.


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