We experience what I call Spiritual Adrenaline when life situations or even the process of praying about problems cause us to experience intense feelings of heightened anxiety, hurt, anger or a sense of injustice. Because this can cause actual physical stress responses in us, we need to learn how to pray problems into God’s hands in a way that also works adrenaline out of our bodies. Here’s a simple prayer method I’ve developed whenever I feel or re-feel threats and hurts.
How to do this prayer Practice:
1. Become aware of the times you experience spiritual adrenaline
I discovered what I call spiritual adrenaline when a woman began describing how hard it was for her to sit still through a church service whenever a particular person – whom she felt was not respectful of others – was taking part. The woman had unfortunate prior experiences of not being treated as a person of worth and this made her highly emotionally sensitive to transgressors – especially those who were supposed to be Christian role models – who were thoughtless, haughty, unkind or dismissive.
I became intrigued when the woman described how she felt sitting there confined to her seat in terms of actual physical symptoms. She said, “I feel really sick in the pit of my stomach when I see that person up there acting sweet as pie. It’s all I can do to keep myself from jumping up and shouting out, ‘Don’t be such a phony!’ I literally stopped going to church whenever I thought this person might be participating because I felt so stressed out seeing them.”
I realized that I too had experienced actual physical reactions such as hers in the presence of people who had unsavory sides of their personalities that alarmed my sense of spiritual discernment. In fact, I could re-feel the same physical reaction of being “sick about it” when they were nowhere around when I was all by myself trying to pray for them!
What was wrong with me?
The astonishing answer is that there is nothing was wrong with us when we feel this way. As we mature as Christians our minds and hearts become more sensitive to unloving, unholy and destructive behaviors and attitudes in ourselves and others. The fact is, God doesn’t want us to feel comfortable around sin. We naturally react when we see behavior contrary to God’s ways. When our minds sense this “threat” to God’s perfect plan for His people, our bodies react the way God designed us to react eons ago when humans had to fight or run to survive.
2. Understand the connection between your body’s chemical defense reactions and your feelings of being threatened.
Scientists now know that our bodies react by releasing a sudden shot of adrenaline and cortisol whenever we face a perceived threat. An actual physical process takes place within our bodies that increases our heart rate, elevates our blood pressure, gives us a boost of energy, increases the sugar in our bloodstream and suppresses our digestive, reproductive and growth processes.
Thankfully today the majority of us don’t face “fight for survival” physical danger daily, but we do face mental stresses that cause the same reaction in the form of feelings of anxiety during daily negative situations that are beyond our control. This can happen even when we’re praying and even when we’re in church!
When we are constantly bombarded with stressful situations, our bodies continually produce these substances and fail to get back to normal. This can lead to a large variety of serious health problems, including heart disease, sleep problems, digestive problems, depression, obesity and memory problems.
3. Develop a healthy, stress busting prayer method to deal with spiritual adrenaline.
A number of years ago I was in a nursing home dining room having a tense discussion with a nurse whom I felt had neglected my father’s care. She said something that sounded like a complete and total lie. I felt my heart squeeze up in my chest and adrenaline shoot through me. Much to the astonishment of the nurse – and myself – I actually jumped up out of my chair and said, “I’ve got to go pray!” Then I hurried over to the piano on the other side of the room, silently said “Lord help me” then turned around and sat back down at the table. God answered my “jumping out of my seat” prayer by helping me not to say things that might have turned the nurse against my father and our family. Jumping up and praying allowed me to continue the conversation rationally so we could try to find a reasonable solution.
Because spiritual adrenaline is a very real and uncontrollable physical reaction, it makes sense to use a prayer method that has a strong physical side to it in order to use up the excess physical energy before it sours into stress.
I made up a simple prayer and actions to go along with it. Here’s the all-purpose prayer that I use something like a marching chant:
The Grace of God be with him (or her or me, whomever is the one with the behavior problem that’s stressing me out)
The Grace of God be with him
The Grace of God be with him
If I am alone at home, I say this prayer in a fairly loud voice while rapidly walking with very large strides. I repeat “The Grace of God be with him” three times rapidly like a chant. When I get to the “Holy Spirit Power” bursts I say each word slowly and forcefully pumping a clinched fist above my head.
After praying this way for a few minutes, I feel 100% better!
4. Pray hard and long not to let spiritual adrenaline cause you to act on your strong feelings to leap into action in ways that displease God and derail His plans.
It’s obvious that spiritual adrenaline can have very destructive consequences if we act on it in the overriding heat of the moment. We need to beg for help to keep ourselves from acting irrationally or in ways that are unloving, not Christ-like, premature, self gratifying and counter-productive in God’s Kingdom. Too often we are overcome with the urge to swiftly slap the judgment/punishment/destruction response on transgressors. We’re like James and John in Luke 9:54 when they were indignant – make that outraged – that a village would not give Jesus hospitality or welcome him. They said, “Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” Jesus rebuked them and went on His way.
The woman I quoted at the beginning of this article was absolutely correct in stifling her urge to stand up in church and yell at the person she felt was unkind! Such an action would have completely discredited her ability to be a positive force in helping the person causing her stress. Not only that, it would have proven embarrassing and confusing to the whole congregation. Not a pretty picture!
The fact is, the devil is quite aware of spiritual adrenaline and he is right there ready to suggest we do something right away. The disciple Peter had a lifelong problem with harnessing spiritual adrenaline. Often Peter spoke or acted impulsively in the wrong way at moments of heightened spiritual awareness and alert. He blurted out to Jesus that it would be madness for Him to go to Jerusalem to die on a cross. Jesus said, “Get thee behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matthew 16:23)
5. Develop a variety of physical ways to dispel spiritual adrenaline suitable for different settings.
Praying loudly while shaking my fist in the air is certainly not something that I’d do when anyone else is within sight or earshot. So I invented other ways to dispel physical energy more discreetly when in social settings. For instance, in an office setting you can get up from your desk and take a brisk walk over to the water cooler while silently doing the Holy Spirit Power prayer. If you’re seated where you’re supposed to be still and listen, you can tap your foot or jiggle your leg while praying silently. Any sort of brisk movement that’s in keeping with your setting is a excellent. If you’re working at your computer and no one is looking at your screen, you can open a blank document and quickly type and re-type the short spiritual adrenalin prayer for as long as necessary.
6. Use a large variety of prayer types and settings as a stress reliever.
In addition to exercise, eating healthy diets and getting proper rest, doctors also recommend what they call “relaxation techniques” to reduce stress. The more we pray in a variety of ways when we’re not experiencing spiritual adrenalin, the calmer, more rested and more confident we will feel. Reading and claiming God’s promises in the Bible and spending time in His presence getting to know His heart are essential. Being in good relationships with Christian friends will also help us remain more balanced. Talking about our hot-button spiritual feelings with a trusted Christian friend or counselor is also highly beneficial.
Copyright Karen Barber 2012 All rights reserved.