In a crisis our world contracts. I can best compare this to a time I almost passed out. I had just gotten over a cold and decided to hit the weight room for a hard work-out. I had been sitting on a bench in the locker-room. When I stood up, I felt dizzy and everything began going dark in my peripheral vision. I could only see what was right in front of me; everything else was darkness. I carefully sat down, took slow deep breaths, and waited for the darkness to pass.
Something like this happens in a crisis. All we see is the thing we fear; all we feel is our pain. It is suffocating. When a parent fears losing a child to sickness, disease, or even sin and rebellion, it is hard to pray for anything but the child. Their cancer, addiction, or rebellion descends on our soul like a grey cloud until the ache of our heart consumes us.
Any talk on praying in a crisis should first declare that there are times when we can’t pray—times when we have no words. It is okay to let others pray for us or to just hurt in God’s presence. When pain and fear cripple us, it is okay to let others lower us into the presence of Jesus. We can let their faith break through the roof of our depression and discouragement.
But sometimes a crisis moves like lava creeping down a hillside. A loved one’s dementia, cancer, or series of strokes can unfold slowly over months or years. It is here where it becomes important for us to pray larger than our crisis. We can’t let our heart be shut up in our own suffering.
For me this has meant deliberately and earnestly interceding for people and things not directly connected to me or my situation. Recently, I have been praying for an outpouring of God’s Spirit in Tel Aviv, Olathe (Ks), and Kansas City. I also pray for a few people that I don’t know well and don’t see often. Praying larger than my crisis has helped me. Our pain can create a kind of claustrophobia—a creeping panic. Fear and pain can lock us in a small gray place, but praying beyond our crisis opens a window. I am not saying praying large vanquishes discouragement or fear, but it helps. It isn’t victory, but it has the fragrance of victory. When I refuse to let my heart shrivel to the size of my pain, the enemy loses. Just as resurrection robs death of its sting, love robs suffering of its bite.
When we refuse to stop loving and we pray larger than our crisis, we become more like Jesus who on the cross prayed for those who crucified him. In the midst of His suffering, injustice, and isolation, the heart of Jesus carried the whole world in prayer. If we follow the example of Jesus, the pain and fear that could cripple our prayer life can empower it.
Our prayer and declaration should be Psalm 119:32: “I shall run the way of Your commandments, for you will enlarge my heart.”