Don’t worry, but Bob Marley only got it half right

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I like the song. My family likes the song. You probably like the song. When it rings out on a beach vacation, everybody just feels a little better, and the cares of life just seem a little farther away.

However, with all due respect to Bob Marley, his song is great for the beach, but falls way short in the throes of real life in our real and fallen world. He calls, “Don’ worry, be happy,” but please read on to find the only truly effective response to worry.

Last week I met with some men for breakfast. It was certainly a social and fellowship event. Several of the men and I had regularly met for such a breakfast for many years before until it all got shut down with the pandemic. So, this was the first time we re-formed and gathered in almost two years. It was sweet to re-connect and also have new faces join in.

But this breakfast was, as were all the ones before, more than a social and fellowship event. The tag “Men’s Prayer Breakfast” would probably describe it best because the fellowship, visiting, and even the food always are secondary to the central importance of contemplating a Scripture and praying for particular prayer requests that the men bring from the reality of their own everyday lives.

For us Christians, prayer is as vital to our spiritual lives as actually breathing in oxygen is to our physical lives. I knew, of course, that prayer and praying are mentioned many, many times in the Bible. Well, now, because of Google, I know that there are those who have counted, probably by computerized word-search, and can report that pray, prayer, prays, prayed, prayers, and praying are mentioned 375 times. And this does not include many other aspects of prayer, such as asking, praising, confessing, giving thanks, etc.

So, for a group of Christian men to meet and do some praying is certainly nothing unusual. However, this begs the haunting question, “Or is it?” We can all ponder that for a while.

To this most recent “Men’s Prayer Breakfast” I brought a particular Scripture passage for us to ponder and propel us into a time of prayer. This time, since it was our first time “back,” I even had the verse printed on little cards for the men to take with them and put in their billfolds or prop up on their computer desk at home.

The verse was Philippians 4:6 in the Contemporary English Version (CEV). I tend to stick with the more traditional translations, but for this verse it struck me that the “contemporary version” hit a little closer to home for the occasion.

“Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God.” Philippians 4:6 CEV

Don’t worry about anything? Yeah, right! What could that possibly mean in our complicated and distress-filled times? I explained to the guys at the tables the other morning that I believe the key here is in the understanding and definition of the word “worry.”

Are we concerned about things? Of course we are. Do we have a care for what is happening to us and to our loved ones? Of course we do. Do we ponder issues of the day and take into consideration how it all affects us? Of course we do.

But do we let the thousands of issues which cross our lives every day cripple us, debilitate us, drive us to despair, and destroy our faith? That’s how this “worry” is defined. That’s our understanding of this “worry.”

And our answer, as ones called by God into His Family as His sons and daughters and therefore brothers and sisters together in His Name, we boldly declare that by God’s Power within us in Christ Jesus we shall not worry in this crippling, debilitating, destructive way. Amen!

Jesus has conquered all the worrisome demons by His death on the cross to forgive us all our sins and by His glorious resurrection from the dead that, believing in Him, we too shall have eternal life. With that “worry” out of the way, we certainly need not “worry” about anything else. Amen!

And what, then, are we going to do instead? Well, as simplistic as it may sound, it is also most profound and powerful, and that is “pray about everything.” Pray about everything. Pray. About Everything.

We are reminded here that praying prayers is not only, although it can be, it is not only the well-penned vocabulary of prayer we so wonderfully hear in our church services. “Praying about everything” requires only the most simple words, and even thoughts, that come from our hearts and minds to the “ear” of our loving Heavenly Father, who indeed loves each of us as His little children.

“Just pray your life,” some Christian authors on prayer have so helpfully said. What’s going on in your own life? Pray about it. God, of course, already knows what is going on with you, but say it in a simple prayer and ask God to lead and guide you into a right response.

What’s going on in the lives of those whom you love, your family and others? Pray about it. Say it in a simple prayer and ask God to lead and guide them into right responses. The same goes for your community, your state, our nation. “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything.” Pray. About Everything.

St. Paul, who wrote these Scripture words originally to the Christians in the town of Philippi, went on in this verse 6, “With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God.”

This, along with many other Scripture verses about praying, gives us such sweet permission to ask God for the things we perceive we need. We can ask for relief from suffering, for the end of the brokenness in relationships, for healing and good health, protection, the full provision of our physical needs, and for the thousands of other wants and needs that crowd our everyday lives. Ask. Offer up your prayers. Offer up your requests. To God. With thankful hearts. So key! With thankful hearts.

That’s just what we did at our “Men’s Prayer Breakfast” last week. It was wonderful. And we enjoyed our fellowship. And every man left quite full of eggs, coffee, and such.

And, if our family gets to go back to the beach this coming summer, we’ll most definitely “groove out” to Bob Marley, but we won’t count on him for the true response to worry in our lives. Here’s what we’ll do, “Don’t worry about anything, but pray about everything.” May you do also. Amen!

[Kollmeyer, a Fayette County resident for 36 years, is Pastor Emeritus at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Fayetteville. Follow Pastor Scott Ness and this great church at www.princeofpeacefayette.org. Kollmeyer was most recently Interim Pastor at Word of God Lutheran Church in Sharpsburg. Follow Pastor Jason Dampier and this great church at www.woglutheran.org.]

6 COMMENTS

          • I agree with both of you that my response was a lazy one.

            This clergyman devoted over 1,000 words to parsing lyrics to a popular song of yesteryear from his evangelical perspective. He contends that the goal is identical even though the method to attain it differs. He is mistaken. Both Kollmeyer and McFerrin prescribe changing one’s cognitive set to achieve a worry-free emotional state. Kollmeyer merely identifies a specific religious action as the proper means to this end while McFerrin seems open to the universe of methods to achieve the goal.

            Kollmeyer could look elsewhere in his holy book and make a case for other strategies: enduring hardship as a good soldier (II Tim.2), taking up one’s cross (Luke 9), actually acting pro-socially to make a difference in a less fortunate person’s life (Matthew 25), among many others. He focuses narrowly upon the least arduous method to uplift his mood.

            So, I will modify my statement to be more correct. The pastor insufficiently researched the tunesmith who penned and performed the song that stimulated this column. Similarly, he insufficiently researched his Bible and advanced one method of achieving the goal without even mentioning the many others.

            As such, both Rev. Kollmeyer and I were indolent.

    • Perhaps the author was indeed referring to a Bob Marley song he heard on the beach? It’s titled – Three Little Birds, (from the’77 Exodus album) with the well-known chorus of “Singin: don’t worry, about a thing, cause every little thing, gonna be all right!” Hey, glad to hear that Bob and the Wailers song collection still resonates with many (including Evangelicals) hanging out on the sunny beaches these days. Jah, Rastafari.