Spiritual breathing ∙∙
Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. – Colossians 4:2
15 Ever since I first heard of your strong faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for God’s people everywhere,
16 I have not stopped thanking God for you. I pray for you constantly,
17 asking God, the glorious Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, to give you spiritual wisdom and insight so that you might grow in your knowledge of God.
18 I pray that your hearts will be flooded with light so that you can understand the confident hope he has given to those he called – his holy people who are his rich and glorious inheritance.
19 I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him.
The autonomic nervous system acts largely unconsciously and regulates bodily functions such as digestion, breathing, heart rate, etc. It is a control system that acts in the background. Our heart continuously runs, and beats; we breathe without ceasing.
Prayer is spiritual breathing. In the same way, we breathe without ceasing, we can pray without ceasing. It is a skill that can be developed. It requires an attitude of dependence upon and continual conversation with the Father. With practice, we develop the habit of turning to the Father for decision-making, praise, wisdom, and discernment. Depending upon the Father simply becomes a way of life for children of the King.
The Father called us to a lifestyle of constant, consistent, and persistent communication with Him. Spiritual breathing, perpetual prayer, is one of the most important aspects of initiating and maintaining our relationship with the Father.
REFLECT & PRAY
“The greatest ability is dependability” (Dr. Bob Jones, Sr.).
Father develop in me the habit of perpetual prayer. Let spiritual breathing characterize my life.
At times, we can of course, purposely take over control of our breathing, but it lasts only for short time. Then almost unconsciously, we fall back into normal breathing which is self-regulated and uncontrolled. Is it possible to breathe spiritually continuously with our conscious minds? Under normal circumstances, definitely not. Why? Because real everyday life is not like that. Some constant interruptions and requirements necessitate that we focus on other things. Out of necessity, our conscious mind is directed elsewhere. However, our hearts may be operating at a deeper, more profound level of adoration, receptiveness, and dependence upon the Father. This would be analogous to our autonomic nervous system acting in the background, largely unconsciously, regulating bodily functions.
A steady-state of dependence upon the Father is not only possible but also part of developing a closer walk with Him. It is an attitude of the heart, even when our minds might be in someplace else.
Colossians 4:2 Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.
“The Colossians were to pray with mental alertness. Presumably, this meant that they were to know the circumstances of life, particularly those which affected the spread of the gospel. Informed prayer is likely to be more purposeful, personal, and powerful” (Melick Melnyk).
1 Thessalonians 5:17 pray without ceasing.
“This means, ‘Be steadfast in your prayer life; be devoted; don’t quit.’ This is the way the early church prayed (Acts 1:14; 2:46). Too many of us pray only occasionally – when we feel like it or when there is a crisis. ‘Pray without ceasing’ is God’s command to us (1 Thessalonians 5:17)” (Wiersbe).
So perhaps we might visualize a person wondering about muttering prayers almost silently under their breath (Wiersbe). Or walking about singing Gregorian chants. This misses the point entirely.
“Rather, it means we should constantly be in fellowship with God so that prayer is as normal to us as breathing” (Wiersbe). Our goal should be on maintaining a positive, open relationship with the Father. Then, prayer becomes as natural as breathing, spiritual breathing.
Perhaps a negative example may help. There have probably been times in each of our lives when very difficult or heartbreaking things have happened. The result is that we become consumed with sadness, anger, or even rage. It becomes our constant, steady emotional state. Our emotional state may be temporarily interrupted because of the simple demands of daily life or physical activities that engage our minds. For example, making a grocery list, or cutting the grass, or verbal or written communication.
Perhaps you have been in the midst of an intense emotional conflict with someone close to you, and the phone rings. Somehow you manage to temporarily control your emotions and carry on a civil conversation. But the moment the call was over the anger or sadness, or rage once again consumed you.
Spiritual breathing should become the constant, steady-state of each of the Father’s children. It undergirds and supports the work of service.
“A visitor at Spurgeon’s Tabernacle in London was being shown around the building by the pastor, Charles Spurgeon.”
“‘Would you like to see the powerhouse of this ministry?’” Spurgeon asked, as he showed the man into a lower auditorium. ‘It is here that we get our power, for while I am preaching upstairs, hundreds of my people are in this room praying’” (Wiersbe).
Beyond spiritual breathing, some prayer requires intense focus and effort. We become imbued with power. Great energy is expended as we wrestle with the Father in prayer.
Colossians 4:12 Epaphras . . . is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured.
The Greek word translated wrestling, laboring, struggling, or earnestly is agonizomai. The English word agony is derived from agonizomai. It described the energy expended in public wrestling games. The competitors engaged in a contest to contend for a prize. Each of them had to do their very best to achieve victory. It required heroic effort and earnest striving.
Any child of the King is capable of spiritual breathing. It should be more than merely a goal, it should be a way of life for each of us.
Occasionally, we are called upon for more. When we are, we can rise to the occasion. However, wrestling in prayer requires practice and skill development. It is similar to training to engage in physical wrestling matches. You do not become an expert overnight. It requires practice. But you can set it as a personal ambition to be one of the children of the King who is capable and ready to wrestle in prayer.