Monday, October 17, 2016

The Breathing of Prayer



            Prayer is the breath of the believer.  There is no life apart from the breathing of prayer.  But with prayer there is life because it opens us to a life-giving relationship with God in Christ.  One of the ancient fathers of the faith once described prayer in this way:  “To pray is to descend with the mind into the heart, and there to stand before the face of the Lord, ever-present, all seeing, within you.”  It would be weird if I told you that it is your duty to breathe.  Instead, it is our delight to breathe clean fresh air every day.  We don’t need to be told to do it; it is just a part of being alive.

            There is such a thing throughout the history of the church known as “the breath prayer.”  It is to pray short repetitive prayers, like breathing.  It would be strange if I told you that breathing is too common and repetitious, and, so, it should be different or not done so often.  Like breathing, prayer is to be done not once but many times, over and over again.  The Jesus Prayer is a breath prayer.  It comes from a combination of Luke chapter 18 verses 13 and 39:  “God, have mercy on me, a sinner” and “Son of David, have mercy on me.”  Put together, it can be said in a breath.  Breathing-in, you pray “Jesus, Son of David,” and breathing-out, “have mercy on me, a sinner.”  It is a prayer meant to surrender ourselves to God’s grace as naturally as it is to breathe.  To utter it several times is a continual reminder of the God in whose presence we stand.  If we are to live into Paul’s command to pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17), then learning the rhythm of breath prayers can be quite important.

            Furthermore, just like breathing, prayer is more effective and is better done in a position or a posture that is conducive for it to happen.  Putting a pillow over your face makes it difficult to breathe.  But sitting up and paying attention to taking-in deep amounts of air helps us to breathe well.  Within Scripture, there is no one-size-fits-all to prayer.  Standing, having outstretched arms, uplifted eyes, kneeling, and even prostrating ourselves are all postures of prayer before God.  We severely limit ourselves if we only think of praying with eyes closed, head-bowed, and hands folded.

            Standing is usually seen as a gesture of respect in many cultures, even our own.  Sometimes it is good to stand when we pray, acknowledging God’s majesty and our desire to submit to him.  Lifting our arms helps to give us an awareness of God’s bigness and that he is over and above us; it is a posture that literally opens the core of our body toward God and communicates a willingness to receive whatever he has for us.  Looking up to heaven with open eyes causes us to know we are not alone, but God watches us.  Praying on our knees is certainly a way of expressing humility before God.  Prostrating ourselves, or lying face down, is a powerful reminder that we pray mindful of our place – that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.  Every breath is dependent upon God in whom we place our trust.

            It is therefore only fitting that a room your church building be designated for the primary task of prayer.  A Prayer Room not only visibly reminds us how important prayer is to the church, but is a special place available to stand, sit, or kneel in prayer so that the Spirit-breath of God can fill us with life and blessing.  A Prayer Room is designed for Christians to worship and pray, to intercede for others, and to stand in the gap by praying for the salvation of those who need Jesus Christ.


            Seasons come and go, but it is always open season on prayer.  Let us renew our efforts and our effectiveness at praying to the God who was, who is, and who is to come.  May you know the joy of answered prayer, and the love of God in whose mercy is our very breath.

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