The first casualties of upheaval can be love, kindness, and patience. But crisis is also a moment when love for God & one another can spring up. For 150 days, starting on 17th March 2020, I will write 300 words based on one of the 150 psalms in the bible. How can I find and give love in the midst of coronavirus?

“Allahu Akbar”. These simple Arabic words have become well known far beyond the Arab world. Often for the wrong reasons. Because a tiny minority of Muslims have shouted this phrase as they go into battle. It has become associated with violence. Most Muslims are not happy about it – because the phrase is primarily part of the daily Islamic prayers and simply says that “Allah is great” (it is known at the Takbir).

David however, in Psalm 70, got there first.

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!’

Some translations express it as “let those who love Your salvation say continually, ‘The LORD is great’ (or ‘Let God be magnified’).

In churches like mine, where prayers are rarely repeated or read from a book – this idea of saying a prayer, again and again, seems odd. And to be saying it repeatedly seems like chanting.

Where I was pastor previously, in London’s Soho, we had the centre for the Hare Krishna. Groups of the members would walk up and down Oxford Street chanting “Hare Krishna, Hare Rama” over and over again, for hours. Is this what David wants to do in this psalm?

Not quite.

David again is under pressure. He is even under the threat of death. This Psalm is a prayer for deliverance.

Hasten, O God, to save me; come quickly, Lord, to help me.

It is so easy when under pressure to forget that God is real, that God is big and that God is here. And then the difficulties, the attacks, the problems, the anxieties – they grow larger and larger in our mind and we feel helpless. David is reminding himself, and anyone who sings this psalm, that the thing to do when under pressure is to remind ourselves that God is bigger: “The LORD is great”.

So, I don’t want to get into mindless repetition. But I do want to take control over my anxious thoughts and remind myself that God is real, that God is big and that God is here.

So if praying a prayer or a bible verse regularly helps remind us of this. Let’s do it. Personally, I often pray the ‘Jesus Prayer’ beloved of the Orthodox churches in eastern Europe.

“Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

Maybe you prefer what Psalm 70 says:

But may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who long for your saving help always say, ‘The Lord is great!’

May you know God’s greatness today. Love Matt