What we think about prayer has a lot to say about what we think about God.
For some, prayer is mainly an exercise in bringing our “list” before God, cluing Him into our needs (as if He somehow was not in tune with them in the first place). For others, prayer is our divine check-in with our Creator, informing Him of the day’s goings on. While still others see prayer as a moment of holy reverence, filled with “thee” and “thou” and a whole host of other words we would never use in “regular” discussion with our friends.
But what if prayer was so much more?
More than our lists.
More than talking over our day.
More than addressing some far-off deity.
What if prayer were more like breathing? Just as breathing is pretty essential to our physical well-being, so is prayer to our soul. From very early on, our spiritual ancestors knew there was a connection between prayer and breathing. This is why prayer is likened to our breathing in so many writings. They knew that breathing is essential to our lives. It is something that provides life and vitality, and without it, we wouldn’t live but for a few moments. Breathing is something we do almost unconsciously.
What if prayer were like that? I think this is essentially what Paul is getting at when he tells the followers of Jesus in Thessalonica to “pray continually.” I doubt that he was telling them to walk around continually with their heads bowed and eyes closed. Rather, I think he was inviting them to see prayer as a connection, as a way of living and breathing, a way of being connected to and communing with the Creator.
Breathing is equal parts exhaling and inhaling. You can’t inhale without exhaling. Likewise, you cannot exhale very long before inhaling.
I wonder if prayer is like that – equal parts exhaling and inhaling. The Scriptures are filled with people who exhaled, people who, from the depths of their souls, spoke words of honesty to God. Frustration. Doubt. Anxiety. Anger. Joy. Sorrow. Pain. Disappointment. Hope. Fear. Dreams. Brokenness. Just take some time to read through Psalms and you’ll see these kinds of emotions and many more. Historically, the people of God knew one thing for certain: God is big enough for our emotions, good or bad. He knows about them anyway, so why not tell Him honestly?
The Scriptures are also filled with people who inhaled, people who sought for the Creator God to fill them with His presence, His goodness, with peace and wholeness. They sought God to fill their beings with His, to allow His Spirit to dwell with theirs. By inhaling, they were seeking to have their lives be more in rhythm with the way and life of God.
Take a few minutes today to breathe, really breathe. Allow yourself to inhale and exhale, to pray to God your Creator.