Checking our Vital Signs in Crisis
Uncertainty, inconvenience, violence, sickness, and social upheaval are enough to cause anyone to bunker down and just take care of “me, myself, and I”. Our impulse during a crisis may be to control, to self-protect, or fight back against things that we don’t understand or agree with.
When our bodies are physically in crisis, it’s important to monitor vital signs. Heart rate, oxygen saturation, blood pressure, and respiration rate are all indicators of what’s going on internally. During uncertainty it’s important to monitor our spiritual habits and “vital signs” as well. When it comes to our spiritual life, we could say outward vital signs include frequency and content of prayer, Bible intake, Biblical community involvement, and general obedience to Christ. We’re all a work in progress, but these are at least indicators of spiritual growth and life. Since prayer can be overlooked in view of the “more important” things listed above, I want to focus on the role of prayer in the uncertain times we find ourselves in.
For “Prayer Content”, our vitals may read “Low” if we just ask for what we want all the time from God. When we’re constantly demanding things from God, prayer becomes more self-centered than God-centered. It may be read “High” if we go the other way and never petition God honestly about our daily struggles and needs. We may just speak super spiritual words like the Pharisees did, and not have real intimacy with God. Of course, frequency is an important part of this too. If we just wait for the right moment in the day, it will never happen. We’re called to “pray without ceasing” (1 Thes. 5:16-18) after all!
Using The Lord’s Prayer to Boost our Spiritual Health
But this all sounds so hard doesn’t it? How do I pray without ceasing? How do I connect to my emotions during prayer? What special words do I say to make my prayers more “God-centered”? How do I ask for things humbly?
Meditating on the Lords prayer can help us answer all of these questions. Think about all the elements found in the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-14. The prayer moves from worship of God, to submission to him and his kingdom purposes, to relying on him as provider, to confession of sin and a prayer for deliverance. All these elements are things we need to keep our spiritual vital signs stable. The frequency problem is also addressed since it’s easy to memorize. We can meditate on the prayer for as short or as long a time as we need, and we can easily repeat as we daily process different situations through its lens. Let’s consider each part (taken from the CSB).
Take some time, slow down and process the Lord’s Prayer. Maybe even pray it in pieces throughout the day. Try doing this for a week straight and observe the growth you see.
Our Father in heaven, your name be honored as holy. [How has our view of God been altered during the current crisis?]
Consider the holiness of God. Although we are fickle and change, he is unchanging in his holiness and utter devotion to his own glorious purposes. Thankfully those purposes include our salvation. Praise him for being a holy, yet utterly approachable God.
Your kingdom come. [Who’s kingdom have we been living for?]
His kingdom has come in you if you have submitted to Christ as your Lord and Savior. Praying this phrase is an act of submitting to the true King again in your family, your marriage, your work, your school, your parenting, your play, your past, your present, your relationships, your failures and your successes. As you pray this phrase, consider what parts of your life need to come under his rule again.
Your will be done, [Where am I not submitting?]
Consider when Jesus uttered this a second time in the Garden, sweating drops of blood. His surrender is our example here as we surrender to God’s will. We don’t surrender to a tyrant, but to a loving God.. His will is to be united with us, to be one, and for us to love as he loves us. All the practical implications flow from that truth.
On earth as it is in heaven. [How can I be used to bring a little bit of heaven to earth?]
Earth and Heaven were to be united, but the fall broke them apart. God’s dwelling will be with his people once again when Heaven and Earth become one in the New Creation. Until that time, he is working through his kingdom people to make earth reflect the realities of heaven. Ask him to be pleased to use you to accomplish this will.
Give us today our daily bread. [What do I need, and am I pursuing it rightly?]
This isn’t about just material needs, but all needs. This is where prayers can get demanding right? Well, not if we’ve already prayed the first half of the prayer! We ask God to provide us with what we need, not what we want. We bring all our core desires to him with open hands, releasing our demand to have them the way we want. Love, safety, affirmation, security, food, shelter, relationships, a semblance of control in life…these are all good things we were created to desire! However our idea of them and God’s idea are probably different in a fallen world. This is also an opportunity to recognize that God is the true source of our deepest and immediate needs, and other external things can become idols. God uses externals to provide at times, but he is always the source of every good and perfect gift (James 1:17).
And forgive us our debts, [Where have I failed to love God and others?]
Confession and repentance are at the core of spiritual disciplines because we’re constantly failing at life. The sooner we own this, the easier confession and repentance become. It doesn’t bring despair, but joy because “he has not dealt with us as our sins deserve, or repaid us according to our iniquities” (Ps 103:10). Ignoring the sin, sugarcoating it, or being apathetic to it will bring spiritual deterioration. The sooner we confess, the sooner we’re healed by God’s grace. As we absorb God’s love and forgiveness of us, we will also be enabled to do the following…
As we also have forgiven our debtors. [Who do I have to reconcile with or forgive?]
This isn’t fun is it? Honestly, if someone hurts us it’s easier to feel in control when we’re on the higher ground, we’re the victim, we’re the holy one, and they’re held at arms length. The thing is, if we’ve truly received God’s grace, we will be quick to dish out grace and love.
And do not bring us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. [What lie do I need deliverance from today?]
We don’t do battle against flesh and blood, but spiritual powers (Ephesians 6). We ask for help here in the spiritual battle, knowing we rely on God’s grace, not our own strength. Ask for clarity to see the enemies’ lies for what they are, ask for clarity in seeing your own desires and how the enemy capitalizes on them, and ask for deliverance.
For yours is the kingdom, the power, the glory forever, Amen. [End with a posture of submission and humility]
It’s a fitting conclusion due to the posture it takes of surrender, submission and adoration. In attributing to God the kingdom and power, we give control over to him, and in giving him glory we worship him.