I once kept an aroma diffuser in my office that had Eucalyptus oil in it. My co-workers hated it. Finally one day, I asked one what she didn't like about it. She told me it was because it forced her to breathe deeply, something she apparently didn't do very often. Conversely, that is why I loved it. I tended to hold my breath when talking about *delicate* issues like spending down of assets, living wills and dying (I was a social worker in a geriatric setting). The oil diffuser ensured that I did not hold my breath very long. I felt healthier and more awake--and I probably was because more oxygen was getting into my system. We take it for granted that breathing is a natural reflex. But even something as natural as breathing can be done shallowly and without total health effect.
Our prayer lives can be much the same. They need to be a natural reflex--something that we do naturally and constantly.
"Rejoice always; pray without ceasing;
in everything give thanks; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus."
Ephesians 5:16-18 (NAS)
I remember as a college student the first time I read Brother Lawrence's Practice the Presence. It changed my perspective. I began to realize for the first time that it was possible to "pray without ceasing." I put a little PTP reminder on my mirror that I would see often to remind me to practice. And with practice, for a while, prayer was like breathing--I'd pray without even really thinking about it. It infused my day and balanced me. I found myself more thankful, more alert to what God was doing, and more able to make decisions. Praying had brought life to my spiritual being just as breathing brings life to my physical being.
~ Martin Luther ~
But just as I sometimes find that I am breathing shallowly and my physical being, although working, is not at it's optimum, the same is true of my prayer life. Sometimes, often times, my prayer life becomes shallow. It's there. And it is giving life to sustain. But it is not bringing life in abundance. I should not depend on a "non-ceasing", reflexive prayer life--I need to also have a deliberate prayer life. I need time that is totally devoted to prayer. Consciously choosing to pray is what brings the abundance.
"This kind can come forth by nothing, but by prayer and fasting." Mark 9:29
"Even now," declares the LORD, "return to me with all your heart,
with fasting and weeping and mourning."Joel 2:12
"If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14
I was praying with a friend Sunday. She is having a very difficult time of attack. We spoke of how a few weeks ago, because of some of the ministry she with which she is involved, another friend suggested she "stay protected." My friend said she was almost flippant in believing she was protected. The ministry was covered with prayer, but those of us praying had not covered the minister as well. We prayed shallowly. We prayed for results. We prayed for a person's peace and salvation. We did not pray for spiritual protection. We did not acknowledge a real enemy. We didn't spend the deliberate, consistent pleading time in prayer because we didn't see the need. We are now--deliberately meeting in person and by phone daily in twos and threes to pray. We are in our prayer closets on our faces begging for deliverance. I'm asking God to forgive me for holding my prayer breath and praying shallowly. With the deep prayers will come, and is coming, the cleansing.
Praying "without ceasing" comes from training our hearts and our minds to see God and thank God in everything. Praying "with fasting" comes with a deliberate decision that right now I am choosing to pray. We need both. Both bring life. Every moment sustaining breath life and deep cleansing abundant life. I want it all--and by God's grace we can have both.
Take a deep breath and feel the physical cleansing. I hope you have a time of cleansing prayer time today as well. God Bless You.
Iris is our hostess today for In Others' Words. Join us at Sting My Heart to read others' interpretation and reflections on Luther's quote.