The list I'm working on right now actually covers more than just today. There are some complex and interrelated issues that are going to take several days to unravel — if they can be unraveled. So they are on the list in priority positions.
I try to keep each list reasonably short. As the number of items on my to-do list grows, the ability to manage my time effectively diminishes. Referring back to the list imposes discipline on my day and holds me to my tasks. "Planning is of no use at all," says Peter Drucker, "unless it eventually degenerates into work."
There are two other lists I keep as well. These aren't always written down in a notebook. Yet I carry them with me everywhere I go. And the strange thing is that each has the power to cancel out the other. One shrinks as the other grows.
My worry list tends to be composed of things that are beyond my power to control. So crisis events, others' demands on me, and things I'd like to bring under my control make this list. These are the things that distract me during the day and keep me awake at night. They seldom generate anything productive, for the idea that I can bring life under my personal control is only a delusion.
My prayer list is made up of the people, situations, and events I choose to surrender to God. These are the things I know I can't handle. They are too big and too important for me to try to force them to an outcome I can dictate.
See why they cancel out one another? Anything I've given over to God doesn't have to be fretted over. He's competent enough to handle it. So long as I am trying to bring things under my personal control, though, I run the risk of fighting not only the defiant realities around me but God's will for my life. The more praying I do, the less power worry has to interrupt my strength or sleep.
The Bible presents this challenge:
Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7 NRSV).
The more items that get moved off your worry list onto your prayer list, the better off you'll be. God will graciously replace your anxiety with his peace.