This week in our Personal Liturgy series, we began to look at the third enemy of our spiritual health, self-reliance.
Self-reliance: living our day-to-day lives depending primarily on our own strength and resources.
Compared to the other enemies we’ve looked at so far in this series, apathy and distraction, self-reliance is a bit harder to identify and fight in our lives.
Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them. He said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."
Jesus says to live life in His kingdom, we must be poor in spirit. To be poor in spirit means we do not expect to make it through a normal day outside of the mercy and help of God and others. It means our need is not circumstantial, but rather, perpetual. Being poor in spirit means recognizing that we don’t have what it takes to help or save ourselves.
Those who are “rich in spirit” never need help, even in life’s crazy circumstances. They have enough resources to take care of themselves no matter what happens.
However, we are more “middle class in spirit”. When we inevitably come face to face with our own inability to change something and our own weakness, we pray. But on our normal days, we try to handle things on our own with no view of our need for God’s help.
Our culture, both secular and Christian, believes that we can handle anything that comes our way if we put our mind to it. We think that God will never give us more than we can handle, but that is not the case. This leads to people never asking for help and feeling crushed whenever they are forced to face their weakness. The truth is God will never give us more than He can handle. We need to acknowledge our weakness and need for God’s help in our lives.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.
How do we fight against self-reliance?
How do we fight to grow our dependence on God so that over time we experience more of His strength, power, and victory in our lives? The answer is, prayer. Prayer is meant to be an admission of our need, a reminder of our weakness, and an invitation for God to show off in our lives.
Prayer and self-reliance are inversely related.
When self-reliance is high, prayer is negligible. When we know we are in trouble and need help, prayer is flowing. We can use this to our advantage - we can use intentional prayer to decrease our self-reliance.
In Matthew 6:5-13, Jesus gives us a tool to help us cultivate and walk in our poverty of spirit - the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus is teaching us how to depend on God through prayer and reject reliance on ourselves through this prayer. This prayer is short enough to memorize and use as a helpful daily reminder of our dependence on God.
The Lord’s Prayer as a Daily Prayer Guide:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
Being poor in spirit starts with acknowledging that God is God and we are not. He is capable of answering prayers - we are not. We are to reset our mind on God’s worthiness to be prayed to.
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Pray that more and more people would submit to Him as their King. Pray that the earth would look more and more like heaven does and that God would powerfully work to reverse everything that has gone wrong in the earth because of sin.
Give us today our daily bread.
Asking God for daily bread means asking Him to provide for us physically, but also in every other arena of life - spiritually, emotionally, and relationally. This is again acknowledging our utter dependence on the Lord and asking for Him to provide.
And forgive us our debts,
This is a prompt for confession and a request for forgiveness. This is a chance for us to accept the gospel for our day and confess any outer, behavioral level ways we’ve sinned against God, as well as any inner, hidden ways our hearts have turned from Jesus.
As we also have forgiven our debtors.
If the gospel is true for us, then it’s true for others as well. If God’s grace is sufficient to free us from the debt we owed Him, then that same grace will release the debts of those who’ve sinned against us.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
This is a chance for us to pray for protection and deliverance; to be honest about any areas we feel especially weak, tempted or attacked in right now. Acknowledge that you need God to help you with those things.
Let’s fight our self-reliance by incorporating the Lord’s prayer into our regular lives as a daily prayer guide. Even on our normal days with the regular frustrations and mundane tasks, let us become people who daily confess our need for a Savior and look to God in prayer to do the work that only He can do.