Vital signs for living a vibrant life in Christ
You’re always in double jeopardy when you visit the doctor’s office. There’s the initial wait after check-in as you listen for your name to be called. Then there’s a second delay after getting into your room as you anticipate your doctor’s arrival.
But between these two respites the nurse will do something with you that, perhaps more than anything else, will indicate how healthy, or how sick, you really are – the checking of your vital signs. Weight. Blood pressure. Pulse. Whether you’re seeing the doctor to treat a hangnail or a heart problem, these vital signs are key to knowing what’s happening with your physical body.
In the same way, vital signs can give you a snapshot peek at the health of your relationship with the Lord. If you keep an eye on your prayer life, you’ll be able to bring a little preventative care to your walk with God that can keep it fit, strong and growing.
Doctors recommend that you stay at the optimum weight for your age and body height, so you’re always battling to eat and exercise properly to strike that balance physically.
Likewise, you don’t want to be too heavy, or too light, in your communication with the Lord in prayer. What do I mean by that?
- Your prayer life can be too heavy when it’s nothing more than a ritualistic exercise.
Jesus Himself condemned that type of approach to prayer in Matthew 6:7-8: “And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him” (NIV).
An example of the “pagans” Christ refers to here were the Baal worshippers from Elijah’s day, who would incessantly repeat the same dialogue, and even cut and mutilate themselves, in hopes of swaying their deity’s ear.
Methodist minister and devotional writer E.M. Bounds once wrote, “Prayer is not acting a part or going through religious motions. Prayer is neither official nor formal nor ceremonial.” What prayer is, I believe, is clearly revealed in this little story from William Carr Peel, reprinted from What God Does When Men Pray.
Imagine your teenager walking up to you with this request, “O great and wise father, knower of all things, provider of my shelter and daily food, author of family order and peace, generous and benevolent ruler of the house, would you please lend me the car?” Not only would you think he was crazy, you would suspect he was up to something questionable.
When we speak to our Heavenly Father in prayer, it should be as a child speaks to an earthly father.
Prayer is simply conversation between a child and his father – verbal or nonverbal, formal or informal, public or private – concerning the topic of the child’s choice.
Every newborn Christian can turn his thoughts toward Heaven to speak with his Heavenly Father in prayer. It takes no special language, no specific formula, no certain place or posture. No topic is off limits. The child of God can pray anywhere, any place, any time, about anything.
The Bible does not so much teach the mechanics of effective prayer as much as provide examples of it:
- The book of Psalms is filled with real-world prayers spoken in real- world language by real-world people experiencing real-world problems.
- One Biblical personality after another offers honest, heartfelt, genuine prayers throughout the pages of Scripture.
- Throughout the Gospels you’ll find many references to Jesus going off alone to pray. Whether it was early morning, in the evening after a long busy day or even all night long … Jesus would always pray. For Him, prayer was a lifestyle – a normal, regular part of His everyday existence.
2. Your prayer life can be too light when it’s not exercised often enough.
Author, professor and pastor Eugene Peterson once said, “We pray because it is our most human response. We’re made by and for the voice of God – listening to and answering that voice is our most characteristic act. We are most ourselves when we pray.”
If you’re not doing so already, I encourage you to begin talking with God, several times a day as you would a friend – because that’s what you are to Him (John 15:15). Tell the Lord all about your thoughts, fears, concerns and desires – unafraid and without hesitation (Hebrews 4:16), understanding that God is never too busy to listen to you, for no one knows you better than He does (Psalm 139:13-16).
Is your prayer life in proper balance? Does it even exist at all? Your honest answers to those questions will tell you volumes about the health of your relationship with God.