Learning How to Breathe
When I climbed Mt. Rainier 21 years ago, one of the most surprising aspects of the adventure was how my body dealt with the lack of oxygen. Although we were trained to take deep breaths with each step and then expel those breaths forcefully, every time we stopped for a rest and I sat down on my pack, within a few minutes my head was nodding and I was fighting the urge to curl up and go to sleep. I simply did not have enough oxygen in me to sustain me at full strength. I wasn’t aware of it as I drew my breath, but the evidence was clear when I was nodding off every time I stopped.
This weekend we begin a year of focus on prayer as a congregation. Some of us will be delighted about that. Some of us will be intimidated, perhaps. And many of us will be somewhere in between, knowing that prayer is a good thing, that it is a Christian “duty;” something to be checked off of our daily list. But if we really understood how life-giving, how essential prayer is for us to function at full strength, we might be more eager to learn how, as Paul taught the Thessalonians, to “pray without ceasing.”
Back to my Mt. Rainier analogy: if we think of breathing as prayer and oxygen as the fullness of the Holy Spirit, we begin to get a glimpse of how diminished our spiritual life can be if we aren’t learning to pray ravenously—to drink deeply of the Spirit in great gulps and not tiny, genteel little sips, as we are so prone to do. Because if we are sipping our way through our prayer life, we won’t even realize that we are asleep at the switch, missing out on the greatest things that God wants to do in and through us.
I had to train to climb Rainier. Part of that training included learning how to breathe, even though I could have sworn I already knew how to breathe. But not for that altitude. My prayer, literally, is that in the coming weeks and months, we will train together to learn how to pray ourselves to a loftier place—to expect more from the Lord, to risk more in our requests, to bless more by our courageous intercession and to be filled more with the Holy Spirit, as Luke 11:13 promises the Father wants to do.
I think a lot of us are sippers when it comes to prayer. I know that has been true in my own life. But I want more; don’t you? So, join us this weekend as we launch our year of prayer with the new sermon series, “Lord, teach us to pray.”
P.S. Most of us remember exactly where we were 15 years ago when the first scenes of smoke rising from Twin Towers began to appear on our TV screens. Part of our prayer ministry this weekend will be to remember those who died in that terrorist attack, the men and women who have died since in the defense of freedom and liberty and the leaders around the world who must content with this unadulterated evil. Lord have mercy!