27 Mar Weekly Practice: Handover Prayer
One of the very challenging things about anxiety is the way it can shut us inside ourselves: preoccupied with one or other matter over which we have only limited control, we move inwards, turning the problem over and over. Even as my body registers my state outwardly, I can feel myself begin to be shut in with my worries. At such points, I need to know the sober comfort and strength of Jesus Immanuel–God with us. ‘Humble yourselves […] under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.’ (1 Pet. 5:6-7). A trustworthy word! But in the midst of emotional churning, what might this look like?
Often new life challenges push us into new ways of praying—different, perhaps simpler and more still ways of making our life vulnerable to God. In recent times, Jannah and I have found ourselves reaching for a new way of praying. We call it ‘handover prayer’–a simple and grounding way of casting our anxieties on God.
Because cares and worries can tempt me to turn inwards into endless spirals of problem-solving and self-accusation, I seek out the presence of another sister or brother in Christ. As in the Church’s practices of confession, the other person reminds me the Lord is near to all who call on him in truth (Ps. 145:18). Even more, the Lord Jesus Christ is present through his Body the Church: this sister or brother are Christ to me in this moment. I’m not shut in, but—anxious as I am—I’m called into a relationship of trust and love.
Out loud (and perhaps feeling slightly embarrassed at first), I name and handover my troubles. The brother or sister cups their hands, and without comment receives each care, as I ‘place’ them into the hands of God. There’s nothing special about the action, except that it gives outward, physical shape to my trust in Jesus. The brother or sister then lifts the received anxieties to God, ‘casting’ them on the one who cares for us; they might then seal the time of handing over with a prayer for God’s blessing and protection.
Some Christian theologians have described the right relationship God offers in Jesus as ‘an alien righteousness’—that is, that our salvation comes from outside of ourselves. The odd blessing of anxiety is the way in which it underscores this fact—fullness of life comes through trust in God who is as he is—the one who creates, sustains and redeems me. However tempting it is to turn inwards late at night, it is God who creates in us pure hearts, who renews within us ‘a steadfast spirit’ (Ps. 51:10).
In this time of challenge, may God give us new ways of praying, as we learn to cast all our anxieties on him.