Prayer is to faith what breath is to the body.
Have you ever tried breathing only once a day? What about once a week? Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? You can’t go for more than a minute or two without breathing. Oxygen is necessary to the life of your body.
You are intimately acquainted with the necessities of your body, but have you ever thought about the health and necessities of your soul? Your soul is the whole of you, the entire human person. When God breathed into man the “breath of life” (Gen 2:7), he became a “living soul”. If we are living souls, could there be something as important to our soul’s health as breathing? Could we be suffocating without even realizing it?
“Faith is to the soul what life is to the body. Prayer is to faith what breath is to the body.” J.C. Ryle
The apostle Paul describes prayer as something continuous. “Be constant in prayer.” Rom 12:12. “Devote yourselves to prayer.” 1 Cor 7:5. “Praying at all times in the Spirit.” Eph 6:18. “We have not ceased to pray for you.” Col 1:9. “Pray without ceasing.” 1 Thess 5:17. “I remember you constantly in my prayers night and day.” 2 Tim 1:3.
Prayer is a rhythmic, constant act – kind of like breathing. It fills us with life, it reminds us of the true reality of the cosmos, and draws us into closer relationship with God Himself. Without it, our faith and our souls waste away. We go around out of breath or at worst, slowly suffocating.
Now if the idea of praying without ceasing seems hard and boring to you, then think of it like this – prayer doesn’t have to just be a somber, relegated time of the day where you make your requests known to God. Prayer is so much more. It is thankfulness. It is an awareness and acknowledgement of God’s presence in us and around us. It is standing in awe of his holiness and beauty. It is looking at the world through His eyes. It is a heart seeking to involve God in the decisions of our lives. Prayer is and can be to the Christian as natural and easy as breathing.
If you were all of a sudden told that you had a constant open line to the most powerful, most loving, most generous person in the world, would you talk to him/her? I think you would. Now let’s try multiplying that by infinity. God is all of those things, but He is also the creator and sustainer of all things. And, in Christ, He has called you His child – His very own child. Like any good father, He cares about the little and big things in your life. Does this sound like someone that would be worth talking to? And yet, all too often, we avoid prayer.
So why don’t we pray? I’m sure there are many reasons, but here are two that many of us can identify with – guilt and unbelief.
Plagued with Guilt
When you come to God in prayer, how do you feel? For me, I am often plagued with thoughts of guilt.
Do you really think that God will listen to you? You never pray – what kind of Christian are you? God must be very disappointed in you.
My prayer time leaves me feeling depressed and exhausted. But it is not because prayer itself is draining me; it is because I am listening to the voice of the accuser, and forgetting the gospel. I am failing to remember the fact that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ (Rom 8:1). My guilt is gone. I can come confidently before God (Heb 4:16), accepted and loved (Col 1:22), because, in Christ, I am a new creation (2 Cor 5:17). I have the righteousness of Jesus (1 Cor 1:30). This is the good news of the gospel.
When we are confronted by our sins, this should not lead us to despair, but instead to joy at the fact that our sin has been nailed to the cross and is forgiven by the blood of the Lamb (Col 2:14). His grace is always sufficient for us (2 Cor 12:9).
God welcomes us to talk with Him; to abide with Him. He has chosen to live in us by His Spirit. Don’t let guilt keep you from breathing.
If you are a Christian, you believe in the existence of God. You believe in Jesus. You believe that God works in the world. You even believe that God listens to and answers our prayers. But there are different degrees of belief. The closer you are to the reality of something, the deeper your belief will become. Let me explain. I believe that the stars are giant balls of burning gas trillions of miles away. I know this to be true, but because it is something I can’t touch or hear or experience, the reality of this truth is vague. I believe, but in a distant kind of way.
The same can be true about our belief in God. The less we immerse ourselves in the reality of God’s existence and closeness, the more distant our belief becomes. We often picture God far-removed from us in Heaven somewhere, but God is not some far-off deity. He is someone we can experience. The true reality is that He couldn’t be closer to us, for He lives in us by His Spirit. Prayer awakens us to God’s reality living in us and throughout His universe.
Awaken to the True Reality
J.C. Ryle said that, “Prayer is to faith, what breath is to the body”. Prayer sustains faith, because the more we interact with God, the more we awaken to His close reality. We stop sleep-walking through life – we stop going around short of breath and we learn to truly breathe. Our souls crave constant interaction with God. Praying at church once a week isn’t enough. Our new natures in Christ yearn to be “constant in prayer” – it is like breath for our lungs. This is who we are – a people meant for prayer.
Try praying right now. Come to God with a clean conscience – Jesus has purchased this for you on the cross (Heb 10:22). Prayer is inherently just talking to God. If it has been awhile since you talked to Him, perhaps just say a few words. “Father, I am yours.” Say it over and over again. Let God’s closeness permeate you. Take a deep breath. Breathe Him in. Let it restore your soul.