Sometimes, our view of our Jesus is warped by our human experiences and relationships. Sometimes,  we extrapolate our human experiences onto what God must be like. 

As pastor and author Dane Ortland once wrote, "We project onto Jesus our skewed instincts about how the world works. Human nature dictates that the wealthier a person, the more they tend to look down on the poor. The more beautiful a person, the more they are put off by the ugly. And without realizing what we are doing, we quietly assume that one so high and exalted has corresponding difficulty drawing near to the despicable and unclean. Sure, Jesus comes close to us, we agree—but he holds his nose." [1]

Somehow, this becomes our understanding of the holiness of God: with one hand He shows us his love (or judgment, depending on how our consciences are operating at the moment), and with the other, He holds His nose. Not only is this half-handed love, it's also half-hearted. God is so worried about protecting His holiness that He cannot stand to interact with us for long, or at full intensity.

Yet in engaging this belief, we project ourselves onto our God.

God has no need to protect His own holiness. It cannot be corrupted by us.

It is we who are self-protective. The thing we tend to protect is not our holiness, but our sin. It is we who cannot stand to interact with Him for long, or at full intensity. 

"We will never make ourselves feel that we are sinners, because there is a mechanism in us as a result of sin that will always be defending us against every accusation. We are all on very good terms with ourselves, and we can always put up a good case for ourselves." [4] 

And yet, in the deepest corners of our hearts, many of us know there is something wrong with us, some maximum capacity for good, some barrier that imposes upper limits for interacting with God. We project our limits onto God because it feels too threatening to acknowledge that they are ours.

When God comes in all of His love and wonder and intensity to meet with us, we become the Israelites, declaring, "Do not let God speak to us, lest we die." [2]

We react in terror and overwhelm. I include myself in this. 

At times, I have reluctantly asked Him to stop pouring out His Spirit into my heart because the sense of His love and presence is so intense that I've been certain I will pop like an overfilled balloon.

I've been a Christian for forty years, and it was only a few weeks ago that I finally realized the prayer I should pray in those moments.

It's not, "Please stop!"

It's, "Please increase my capacity."

This is a prayer of trust, a prayer founded on knowing who He is, and where I stand with Him.

Some months ago, I was faced with an attack that was quite frankly demonic. There is no other word to adequately describe the grotesque and pervasive evil of what happened. Just as things were ramping up, and I was calling upon the Lord to rescue me, He implanted an image in my mind. 

I was standing in a chamber whose walls were made of tissue. It was the chamber of a heart. I knew it was God's heart. It was beating. And I knew with each beat, blood would flow through this chamber. It took me a few moments to realize the import of this image. 

God had not only hidden me in His heart, but the blood flowing through that heart was Jesus'. He was washing me clean with Jesus' blood, and painting me with later upon layer of His spiritual protection [3], beat after beat, after beat. 

This is who I am: His child, cradled in His heart. 

Knowing who He is, and who I am to Him, enables me to want more of Him, beyond my capacity.

This prayer, "increase my capacity," is useful for so many things:

  • increase my capacity for being filled with the Holy Spirit
  • increase my capacity to be hurt and yet love the one who has hurt me
  • increase my capacity to forgive
  • increase my capacity for truthfulness and honesty
  • increase my capacity for holiness

I'm sure there are many more variations of this three-word prayer. 

And as we pray these sorts of prayers, Jesus—our intercessor in heaven [5]—also joins with us. 

Jesus is praying for you and for me, right now. [6] Not with idle half-attention and a cool heart; but overflowing with the passion and ardour of Heaven, ablaze with power and majesty, aching in tenderness and mercy. 

This is the God who loves us. May we worship Him with our whole hearts.


[1] Dane Ortland, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 24 of 205 in e-book. 

[2] Exodus 20:19, ESV.

[3] Based on my experience and the experience of countless other Christians in places from Trinidad to Africa to Okinawa, demons cannot bear the even the mention of the blood of Jesus. They have to flee.

[4] Dane Ortland, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 59 of 205 in e-book, my paraphrase.

[5] See Hebrews 7:25.

[6] Dane Ortland, Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 71 of 205 in e-book.