Is Prayer a Burden or the Casting Off of a Burden?
“Cast your burden (i.e. the responsibilities He’s given you) upon the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never allow the righteous to be shaken (i.e. to totter).” – Psalm 55:22
“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:7
Is prayer an obligation, or is it a relief from our obligation? Is prayer a burden, or is it the casting off of a burden?
I once read the story of a chaplain and his assistant in South Korea shortly after the war there ended. They were driving along a country road and came upon an old Korean man bearing a heavy load on his back. They offered to give the man a ride and helped him onto the back of their truck. After resuming their journey, the chaplain looked back and saw the old man standing – not sitting or resting – and still carrying the heavy burden.
It reminded him of how God’s children should be resting comfortably in the hollow of His almighty hand. But instead, they still carry burdens of worry and guilt, concerns that God has already made provision for and is more than willing to carry for them. Then, if someone suggests that they pray about their concerns, they view prayer as “one more burden” that’s placed upon them.
But prayer is not one more obligation or responsibility. Prayer is the opportunity to place the weight of our responsibility on God’s shoulders. It’s the chance to hurl our heavy load upon Jesus, our burden bearer. For us, prayer is a release valve for the pressures of life. Far better, prayer is a moment to flee into the arms of our Heavenly Father and find love, acceptance, and approval. It’s a small window in which we can find healing for our wounded hearts and inspiration to live on.
Of course, we can make that “small window” as large as we want. God never tires of hearing from us. He always welcomes the children He loves into His arms. We can sit on God’s lap continuously. We’ll never outgrow God or cease to be His little, beloved child. We’re always the ones who curtail our experience with God’s presence. Just like a little child, we want to leap off God’s lap and run away – until we get hurt and come crying back.
Yes, we all tend to be like the old Korean man. We insist on standing and bearing our load when God offers to carry both us and our burdens. We’re the ones who run up escalators that will gladly bring us to the top. We’re the ones who march furiously on those moving walkways at airports.
But the best thing any heavy-hearted Christian believer can do is to relax and let God do the miraculous for us. “Stand still (cease striving, let the arms dangle at your sides) and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations. I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46:10).
After all, isn’t God the one who keeps us alive physically? Who else nourishes those 40 trillion cells in your body – and faithfully replaces them when they die? Who else created the 60,000 miles of superhighways and byways that bring nutrient-rich blood to the doorstep of each cell, then carries away its waste? Who else keeps your heart beating 118,000 times each day? Who makes sure you breathe the required 20,000 times each day? You’re not keeping track of all that. You’re not managing all this activity in your body. You’re not ensuring that your brain accurately gathers information and fires back commands. None of us can do that. We’d be overwhelmed by all the activity required just to keep us alive. But God takes care of it all for us – and He’s done so for all the days we’ve lived – so that we might devote ourselves to Him and to the business of living.
So, for God’s sake and for your sanity’s sake – devote yourself to prayer. Go to your Heavenly Father through Jesus Christ His Son and unload on Him your every burden. Tell Him of all your concerns. And don’t forget to thank Him for all He’s done for you. This is pleasing to God and it will build your faith so you can face your present situation (Philippians 4:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18).
PRAYER: Dear Lord Jesus, please teach me to pray – to cast my cares and burdens upon Your shoulders. Train me to make prayer my first response instead of my last resort. And help me, dear Lord, to count my blessings and to give You thanks for all the many things You’ve done for me. Open my eyes to see Your relentless activity on my behalf and on behalf of those I love. As I do this, Lord Jesus, grant that Your peace will guard and protect my heart and mind. Amen.