Pray Like You Breathe
When I was in college I had a roommate from India named Paul. Super cool guy. Except for the super early hour he woke up and the super strange (I thought) way he prayed as soon as he was awake.
Paul always talked to God in his native language, and seemed to chant his prayers more than say them. His singing was low and monotonous, almost like I imagine a monk would pray in a Himalayan temple. When you’re the guy dead asleep across the room, that is no bueno my friend. More than once I awoke in horror, convinced that there was some kind of demonic chanting emanating from the other side of the room.
I’m certain that Paul was talking to God. I just wished he would have talked to God differently. Perhaps quieter and less monk-like.
That begs the question: How are people supposed to talk with God anyway?
Does one form of prayer please God more than another? Does God like the sound of Old English ye and thou better than Paul’s Hindi?
Basically God enjoyed Paul’s pre-dawn prayers much more than I did.
Because prayer is less about form and more about ache.
I want to show you what I mean, but you’ll have to be a good sport and play along.
Ok - I want you to hold your breath.
Is your brain screaming at you yet? Lungs burning? Feeling a little frantic?
That’s the ache.
We all ache for the presence of God. I ache for it like I ache for oxygen. And there is no such thing as excess. God drown me in your presence!
1 As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. 2 I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him?
We were designed to be filled with God's Spirit — to have a constant living communion, fellowship, integration, connection, flow, lifeline, engagement, network…you get the idea! Put simply, we were created to stand under the Waterfall with our mouths wide open.
7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me. 8 By day the Lord directs his love, at night his song is with me—a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:7-8
There is one simple concept that I hope you’ll remember from this post:
Pray like you breathe.
In your body, the physical action of breathing is controlled by your brain stem. This is a part of your brain which doesn’t process conscious thought. It just does what it was programmed to do. The vast majority of breathing is just like that. It’s
constant, effortless, and life-giving.
So for more of Him, pray like you breathe:
One of Christianity’s great hypocrisies is prayerlessness. We:
- Claim to have a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ”
- Change our profile pictures to:
- Pray for Paris
- Pray for Orlando
- Pray for Texas
- Pray for Florida
- Pray for Las Vegas
- Adore telling our hurting loved ones that “We will be praying for you.”
In reality, we:
- Can’t remember the last time we lingered in the presence of Jesus with no agenda.
- Didn’t actually pray for Paris, Orlando, Texas, Florida, Las Vegas, or any of the people we promised would be in our prayers (because we don’t have prayers).
What if we never finished our morning prayers, but thrived in a ceaseless conversation with Jesus, interrupted only briefly from time to time as we navigate our days?
What if we replaced our “I’m going to pray for you” with “Let’s pray together right now”? What if we followed that up immediately with actual prayer?
18 And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints. Ephesians 6:18
17 Pray continually. 1 Thessalonians 5:17
Every time you communicate with God, you are opening yourself up to the greatest love in the universe. Even the smallest whisper will connect you to the heart of God. This includes what I call breath prayers, meaning prayers that find their way out of your heart and across your lips like a reflex.
No, I’m not talking about OMG or Jesus take the wheel.
I’m talking about prayers like these, which recenter your mind on Jesus when stress puts a pit in your stomach or life has you worrying about the wrong things:
“Lord I'm yours.”
“I love you.”
“I trust you, Jesus.”
Breath prayers are a reminder that He is with us. He is faithful. He is so, so good. The best thing about breath prayers is that they don’t start with “Dear God” and don’t end with “Amen.”
Imagine you are at work, walking down the hall to your next appointment and you whisper as you walk: “God use me. God help me. God guide me. God I need you right now.” It’s just a breath. It’s a simple acknowledgement that your relationship with God is like oxygen. It is an inseverable part of your life.
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. Philippians 4:6
You probably already know that breathing isn’t all about oxygen. The exhale, where carbon dioxide (poisonous waste) leaves your body, is just as vital as the inhale.
John the Baptist famously said of Jesus, “He must become greater, I must become less.”
[Inhale] More of Jesus, [Exhale] and less of me.
More oxygen, less CO2.
More life, less poison.
The truth is, any time you confess your sin, release your worry, forgive and love your enemies, you are spiritually exhaling.
Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7
So we exhale guilt. We exhale pride. We exhale hate.
And we breathe in the Spirit.
22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Galatians 5:22-23
It’s participation time again!
This post is about over, so I invite you to take a moment and go through this exercise with me, speaking these words in earnest as you literally exhale and inhale with your lungs:
I confess my sin (exhale) I receive your grace and self control (inhale)
I release my anxiety (exhale)…I receive your peace (inhale)
I release my selfishness (exhale)…I receive your love (inhale)
I release myself (exhale)…I receive your spirit (inhale)
You were created to pray. You were designed with a need to commune with your creator. I pray (literally praying right now) that if your breathing has stopped, that your spiritual life will be resuscitated into an unceasing conversation with the lover of your soul.